The Ideal School

In The Republic, Plato came up with the ideal government. Obviously, it won’t happen, but one main feature is his critique of democracy. Some of them aren’t too impressive, but one that has always caught me is that there are no experts in a democracy. When you want to get healthy, you go to a doctor. When you have a toothache, you go to a dentist. They are experts in their fields. In a democracy however, there are no experts. Plato compares a democracy like people in charge of a ship. You don’t want people driving the ship, you want a captain. Indeed, Winston Churchill once remarked that democracy is the greatest form of government, until you have a five-minute conversation with the average voter. All of this suggests critiques of democracy. While I understand the critiques, I don’t think democracy will be replaced anytime soon. But the thing that Plato emphasizes on is education.

When people vote in a democracy, they aren’t that smart. It’s because the people don’t care about the substantial issues, they love the images. Debates in democracies will become superficial. We’ll focus more on images, less on substantive issues. Why? It’s because the masses are impatient with all the information. They prefer the sensational over the informative. Think in our society: which do people in our society watch more: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, or E! Channel, Oprah, Jerry Springer, and VH1? Also, more emphasis is placed on emotion than on reason. A while ago, they were thinking of placing a nuclear power plant in California. Well, one side was saying we’ll waste all our resources until we’re scavenging for life, the other side said everyone will become mutant freaks and nuclear accidents. They were trying to scare each other. But here’s the thing: whoever can scare the most wins. Plato’s solution thus, was to start over. I think we need a start over in a sense, but not a full-blown start over. I think Plato’s right that the average voter isn’t that educated. Thus, we need to go straight to the source and look at the education system. This will help us become aware of our country, ourselves, and our situations.

What would the ideal school system be for you? What would you add? What would you take away?

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Education, Experts, Government, Plato, Politics, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Ideal School

  1. shaunmiller says:

    I will present my ideal educational system:

    First, I think it should be a requirement to teach a logic class in high school. I can’t stand people being convinced by these fallacies that people listen or watch. It happens in my class too. This is something that they should know before they reach college. Plus, by knowing how to argue effectively, they can understand what they’re listening, watching, or reading is valid or not.

    Second, during high school, there will eventually be an election. I think that it would help the students to become aware of their being a US citizen by getting involved in politics a little bit. This could mean watching the debates or recognizing the candidates positions. Plus, this will help the students realize what position they hold themselves. Maybe an assignment would be why they would vote a certain way and why.

    Third, eliminate all trans fats from the school. This includes lunches, snacks, and breakfast items. This will basically make the students healthy and there’s been studies that show trans fat doesn’t help our intelligence.

    Fourth, I think there should be more options of a humanities section. This would include: some basic philosophy class, ethics, studies of cultures, the 1960’s anti-establishment period, world religions, and art appreciation. Give the students more options than just psychology or language classes.

    Fifth, bring in computer science. Computers are increasingly becoming more important today and I don’t think they’re even thinking of teaching computer science in high school. When I was taking a computer class, it was basically learning how to type. I knew how to do that in middle school. It’s time to get with the times.

    Sixth, make a required “skills” class. Basically, these are classes that you need in order to survive and you must pick one before you graduate. These would be home ec., auto shop, wood shop, metal shop, computer science, some sewing class, and perhaps glass blowing.

    Seventh, I think the books in English classes should really emphasize on the classics (meaning the books that every intelligent person should read e.g., 1984, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, Shakespeare, The Red Badge of Courage) or on books that have been censored in the past. These will help students to think outside of the box and express their views a bit more.

    Eighth, there needs to be sex education in health classes. People need to be informed of this because it’s part of life. Abstinence-only programs are a waste of time, energy, and they’re clearly not working. Believe it or not, this is an issue that I actually agree with Gov. Palin as you can see here.

    Ninth, in history classes, we mainly focus on our relationship with Europe. What about our relationship in the Middle East for the last 100 years? What about our relationship with Asia for the past 200? I think when it comes to history, there should be more options besides US, Ancient, and Modern.

    Tenth, I think there should be some sort of economic or personal budget class in high school as an option. Sure, they teach this in college, but most students don’t go to college after high school and I think some understanding of buying a house or a car would be helpful while they learn it in high school

    I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll some more when I think of some.

  2. Killer J says:

    I actually agree with everything you said. I can’t believe it. You know what’s pretty cool? I work at Mill Creek now (kid prison) and they have a finance class all the kids are required to take. I’ve looked through the information, and they actually have to learn about budgeting, stock market, etc. I wish I’d had that.

    By the way, I haven’t read any of those books you mentioned. haha, damn.

  3. shaunmiller says:

    Exactly. I read 1984 in high school but not as an assigned reading. Same thing with Lord of the Flies. Catcher in the Rye wasn’t until college and that was just for fun. Shakespeare was something assigned in high school, but I have never read the Red Badge of Courage.

    I think out of the 10 I mentioned, I would say the logic requirement or the history expansion. Unfortunately, I think students would rather take US history in relation with Europe rather than any other place. Ehh, I change my mind. I think the logic requirement is the first priority. Plus, it’s actually kind of fun. đŸ™‚

  4. shaunmiller says:

    I’ve got one more:

    Eleventh, this may be a stretch but how about introducing a yoga class as part of the PE options? I’m kind of ambivalent because I consider yoga just 30 minutes of stretching and not a true full-blown workout, but I think it would still be considered physical education.

  5. Killer J says:

    I think instituting recess in high school would be good. Seriously. There could be structured recesses even, including yoga, weight lifting, basketball, and of course four square and kickball!!!

  6. Killer J says:

    The therapist in me thinks a relationship/communication class wouldn’t be too bad of an idea either. The need for this kind of knowledge is ridiculously high based on all the messed up relationships I see daily.

  7. shaunmiller says:

    I like having individual sports. Say dodge ball. I loved dodge ball but we hardly played it because there were a few kids who didn’t like it. Well, what if you made a class dedicated to dodge ball? That way, the kids who want to take it, will take it; and the kids who don’t want to take it, will take another PE class.

    As for some relationship/communication class, I think that’s a good idea too. Maybe we can integrate it in the sex education class and just call it “Sex and relationships” class or something.

  8. Killer J says:

    You suggest a required logic class. Doesn’t ‘debate’ class fill this need? I’m guessing you thought of this, so what area would you add to the currently existing debate class format.

  9. shaunmiller says:

    True, debate deals with argumentation and logic and such. The difference between the two is that debate teaches you how to argue and trying to win, logic teaches you the structure of arguments and whether the argument is valid or not. It has a mathematical feel for it.

    So I would make them two completely different subjects because I find a difference between the two: debate teaches you how to win arguments (whether the argument is true or not, doesn’t seem to concern debaters), whereas logic teaches you whether an argument is valid.

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