When we think about how to prepare the next generation for a good life, it is clear the role of the teacher is crucial.
In Plato’s allegory, the teacher is the one who escapes the cave and comes to know reality. Consequently, he comes to see that his prior experience (of literally being kept in the dark) was actually a deliberate deception, an act of bondage, and this calls him to act!
Rather than simply running on, enjoying his newfound freedom, the teacher returns to the cave-dwellers to assist in their liberation, bringing them closer and closer to reality (outside the cave) by first turning their faculties in the right direction, then by challenging their perceptions and translating his understanding into forms these prisoners/students can grasp and trust as they begrudgingly go through the painful transition from the familiar darkness to the unfamiliar light. He does all of this despite the students’ blindness, while they see him as a bit of a bother, even though he is actually performing selfless service.
Plato’s allegory challenges the simplistic way of thinking of a teacher: as merely someone who imparts information to learners. If this was a correct summary of the teacher’s role, the fellow cave-dwellers who were skilled at naming the shadows would qualify!
A good teacher is not only wise, with his/her life based in reality and freedom, able to give correct and helpful information. He/she is also a servant with compassion for those who haven’t yet won their freedom. Teachers return to their students’ circumstances (empathize) in order to uplift their students, so students can experience the same emancipation and ensuing joy the teacher has known.
“Education isn’t what some people declare it to be, namely, putting knowledge into souls that lack it, like putting sight into blind eyes… the power to learn is present in everyone’s soul and the instrument with which each learns is like an eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body.”
“Education is the craft concerned with doing this very thing, this turning around, and with how the soul can most easily and effectively be made to do it. It isn’t the craft of putting sight into the soul. Education takes for granted that sight is there but that it isn’t turned the right way or looking where it ought to look, and it tries to redirect it appropriately.”
At this website, we advocate for the proper understanding of the teacher’s role, and we support teachers in their selfless service to students by providing tools that will help teachers achieve transformative, liberating effects with their learners. We borrow Plato’s allegory as a framework to invite teachers to fulfill their true calling, and we curate and share the best available information and resources here, so teachers can effectively “turn the whole body [being]” to orient learners’ natural capacities to truth and enable them to access a good life.
“Whole child,” transformative education entails both developing students’ cognitive capacity (e.g. ability to think for themselves, ability to reason well) and their co-cognitive capacity as well (e.g. personal qualities, emotional intelligence, mindsets). For teachers to release students from a life of mental imprisonment and limited thinking, they must turn the whole child toward a love for learning, develop their hunger and appreciation for the value of the truth, and support their ability to achieve by developing their skills and abilities.
Learn more about these effective teaching practices to deepen and improve your work with students:
- Intellectual Virtues
- Thinking Routines
- Gifted Education For All
- Philosophy For Children
- Social Emotional Learning
Just as the prisoners had no hope of knowing the truth without the teacher who returned to enlighten them, an empowering, transformational education is not inevitable. Students need teachers who can direct their sensibilities to the things that matter, and give them opportunities to practice virtuous and intelligent behaviors in order to become the best version of themselves.
It is our hope that this website will become a trusted source of inspiration and tools for teachers across the world who understand their noble role and are eager to fulfill it.
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