Plato’s Education Theory

The philosophy

The Republic of Plato is perhaps the first treatise on education.

“To get a good idea of public education, read Plato’s Republic. It is not a political treatise, as those who merely judge books by their title think, but it is the finest, most beautiful work on education ever written.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Plato develops his education theory in Books II and III of the Republic.

Plato argues that the first care of the rulers in his ideal State is to educate. He indicates the Hellenic model of education as the best for improved morality and religion. Education in music for the soul and gymnastics for the body, Plato argues, is the best way to educate the Guardians (the second class of citizens in his ideal city). Plato clearly indicates that the Guardians’ education is moral in nature. Their education should emphasize the acceptance of beliefs rather than critical independent thinking.

Plato asserts that education must begin in youth and continue in later years. According to his educational theory, the good man and good citizen can only coincide with a perfect State.

Plato regards education as a means to achieve justice, both individual justice, and social justice. Thus, knowledge is required to be just. And Plato introduces his system of education to achieve the requisite knowledge (virtue). The totality of knowledge, Plato argues, is to possess the knowledge of one’s own job, self-knowledge, and knowledge of the Idea of the Good.

But Plato’s most startling revelation regarding education is his claim that a child must be trained in falsehood first and only later in truth.

Education quotes from the Republic

All quotes are from the Republic of Plato, translated by B. Jowett – Project Guttenberg

“…You know also that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken…”

“…And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas, for the most part, the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?…”

“…For a young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal; anything that he receives into his mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable, and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts…”

“…Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad…”

Related Posts

Also, read the related Blog posts as follows: Plato Totalitarian Visual UtopiaPlato and Justice, Plato’s Duality, Plato’s Imitation Theory, The Republic Lead subjects, Plato’s Regimes, Art as Imitation, Duality in Plato’s Republic, Plato and Art, Dystopia Connotations, Utopia Connotations, What is Utopia, Plato’s Republic, Who was Plato, Plato’s Visual Utopia book