Education


Further, individual education has an advantage over education in common, as individual medical treatment has; for while in general rest and abstinence from food are good for a man in a fever, for a particular man they may not be; and a boxer presumably does not prescribe the same style of fighting to all his pupils. It would seem, then, that the detail is worked out with more precision if the care is particular to individuals; for each person is more likely to get what suits his case.
— Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. 10, 1180b


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Well, have you any against the laws which deal with children's upbringing and education, such as you had yourself? Are you not grateful to those of us laws which were instituted for this end, for requiring your father to give you a cultural and physical education?
— Plato, Crito, 50d-50e


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This is the way I see the true statesman dealing with those who rear and educate children according to the educational laws. He keeps the power of direction to himself. The only form of training he will permit is the one by which the educator produces the type of character fitted for his own task of weaving the web of state. He bids the educator encourage the young in these activities and no others. Some pupils cannot be taught to be courageous and moderate and to acquire the other virtuous tendencies, but are impelled to godlessness and to vaunting pride and injustice by the drive of an evil nature. These the king expels from the community. He puts them to death or banishes them or else he chastises them by the severest public disgrace.
— Plato, Statesman, 308e–309a


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That education should be regulated by law and should be an affair of state is not to be denied, but what should be the character of this public education, and how young persons should be educated, are questions which remain to be considered. As things are, there is disagreement about the subjects. For men are by no means agreed about the things to be taught, whether we look to excellence or the best life. Neither is it clear whether education is more concerned with intellectual or with moral excellence. The existing practice is perplexing; no one knows on what principle we should proceed– should the useful in life, or should excellence, or should the higher knowledge, be the aim of our training?- all three opinions have been entertained. Again, about the means there is no agreement; for different people, starting with different ideas about the nature of excellence, naturally disagree about the practice of it. There can be no doubt that children should be taught those useful things which are really necessary, but not all useful things; for occupations are divided into liberal and illiberal, and to young children is imparted only such kinds of knowledge as will be useful to them without making mechanics out of them. And any occupation, art, or science, which makes the body or soul or mind of the freeman less fit for the practice of exercise or excellence, is mechanical; wherefore we call those arts mechanical which tend to deform the body, and likewise all paid employments, for they absorb and degrade the mind. There are also some liberal arts quite proper for a freeman to acquire, but only in a certain degree, and if he attends to them too closely, in order to attain perfection in them, the same harmful effects will follow. The object also which a man sets before him makes a great difference; if he does or learns anything for the sake of others, the very same action will be thought menial or servile. The received subjects of instruction, as I have already remarked, are partly of a liberal and partly of an illiberal character.
— Aristotle, Politics, Bk. 8, 1337a–1337b


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Why, I believe the argument is bringing us back for the third or fourth time to our old position, that education is, in fact, the drawing and leading of children to the rule which has been pronounced right by the voice of the law, and approved as truly right by the concordant experience of the best and oldest men. That the child's soul, then, may not learn the habit of feeling pleasure and pain in ways contrary to the law and those who have listened to its bidding, but keep them company, taking pleasure and pain in the very same things as the aged– that, I hold, proves to be their real purpose of what we call our “songs.” They are really spells for souls, directed in all earnest to the production of the concord of which we have spoken, but as the souls of young fold cannot bear earnestness, they are spoken of a “play” and “song,” and practiced as such. Just so, in the case of the physically invalid and infirm, the practitioner seeks to administer wholesome nutriment and in palatable articles of meat and drink, but unwholesome in unpalatable, to accustom the patient to accept the one and reject the other, as he should. In the same fashion a true lawgiver likewise will persuade, or if persuasion fails, will compel, the man of poetic gifts to compose as he ought, to employ his noble and fine-filed phrases to represent by their rhythms the bearing, and by their melodies the strains, of men who are pure, valiant, and in a word, good.
— Plato, Laws, Bk. 2, 659c–660b


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It is evident, then, that there is a sort of education in which parents should train their sons, not as being useful or necessary, but because it is liberal and noble. Whether this is of one kind only, or of more than one, and if so, what they are, and how they are to be imparted, must hereafter be determined. Thus much we are already in a position to say; for the ancients bear witness to us– their opinion may be gathered from the fact that music is one of the received and traditional branches of education. Further, it is clear that children should be instructed in some useful things– for example, in reading and writing, not only for their usefulness, but also because many other sorts of knowledge are acquired through them. With a like view they may be taught drawing, not to prevent their making mistakes in their own purchases, or in order that they may not be imposed upon in the buying or selling of articles, but perhaps rather because it makes them judges of the beauty of the human form. To be always seeking after the useful does not become free and exalted souls. Now it is clear that educational practice must be used before theory, and the body be trained before the mind; and therefore boys should be handed over to the trainer, who creates in them the proper habit of body, and to the wrestling master, who teaches them their exercises.
— Aristotle, Politics, Bk. 8, 1338a–1338b


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Later on when they send the children to school, their instructions to the masters lay much more emphasis on good behavior than on letters or music. The teachers take good care of this, and when boys have learned their letters and are ready to understand the written word as formerly the spoken, they set the works of good poets before them on their desks to read and make them learn them by heart, poems containing much admonition and many stories, eulogies and panegyrics of the good men of old, so that the child may be inspired to imitate them and long to be like them.
— Plato, Protagoras, 325d–326a


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The music masters by analogous methods instill self-control and deter the young from evil-doing. And when they have learned to play the lyre, they teach them the works of good poets of another sort, namely the lyrical, which they accompany on the lyre, familiarizing the minds of the children with the rhythms and melodies. By this means they become more civilized, more balanced, and better adjusted in themselves and so more capable in whatever they say or do, for rhythm and harmonious adjustment are essential to the whole of human life.
— Plato, Protagoras, 326a–326c

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All this is done by those best able to do it–that is, by the wealthy–and it is their sons who start their education at the earliest age and continue it the longest. When they have finished with teachers, the state compels them to learn the laws and use them as a pattern for their life, lest left to themselves they should drift aimlessly. You know how, when children are not yet good at writing, the writing master makes them follow the lines as a guide in their own writing; well, similarly the state sets up the laws, which are inventions of good lawgivers of ancient times, and compels the citizens to rule and be ruled in accordance with them. Whoever strays outside the lines, it punishes, and the name given to this punishment both among yourselves and in many other places is correction, intimating that the penalty corrects or guides.
— Plato, Protagoras, 326c–326e


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Don't you understand, I said, that we begin by telling children fables, and the fable is, taken as a whole, false, but there is truth in it also? And we make use of fable with children before gymnastics.
— Plato, Republic, Bk. 2, 377a


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Your instructions, we have said, are deficient, in the first place, as to reading and writing. Now what is the defect of which we complain? It is that you have so far not been told whether the lad who would be a decent citizen must attain to a finished mastery of the study, or must leave it wholly alone, and the same is true of the lyre. Well, we tell you now these studies must not be left alone. For reading or writing three years or so, from the age of ten, are a fair allowance of a boy's time, and if the handling of the lyre is begun at thirteen, the three following years are long enough to spend on it. No boy and no parent shall be permitted to extend or curtail this period from fondness or distaste for the subjects: to spend either more or less time upon them shall be an infraction of the law, and the disobedience shall be visited by exclusion from the school distinctions we shall shortly describe. But what more specifically is to be learned by the children and taught by the masters during these years? That is the very question to which you are first to hear our answer. They must, of course, carry their study of letters to the point of capacity to read and write, but perfection of rapid and accomplished execution should not be insisted on in cases where the natural progress within the prescribed term of years has been slower. As the study of written compositions without musical accompaniment, whether written in meter or without rhythmical subdivisions–in fact, compositions in simple prose with no embellishments of rhythm or melody–difficult problems are raised by some of the works bequeathed to us by our numerous authors in this kind. How then will you deal with them, reverend curators of law? Or what would be the right injunction for the legislator to lay upon you as to their treatment? I can conceive they will cause him no little perplexity.
— Plato, Laws, Bk. 7, 809e–810e


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To proceed with our subject, we have already arranged for three public schools with attached training grounds within the city, and three training grounds and ample exercising ground outside it for horses, suitably equipped for the use of the bow and other long-range weapons, where our young people may both learn and practice these accomplishments; or if adequate arrangements have not been already made they must be introduced into our theory and the corresponding code at this point. They shall all be adequately staffed with paid resident and salaried masters in the various subjects, who must be non-citizens, and must give a complete course of instruction alike in the arts of war and in that of music to the boys who attend their classes. A boy is not to attend if his father so desires, but otherwise to be exempted from this education. Education is, if possible, to be, as the phrase goes, compulsory for every mother's son, on the ground that the child is even more the property of the state than of his parents. And, mind you, my law will apply in all respects to girls as much as to boys; the girls must be trained exactly like the boys. And in stating my doctrine I intend no reservation on any point of horsemanship or physical training, as appropriate for men but not for women. In fact, I give full credit to the tales I have heard of ancient times, and I actually know that living round the Black Sea–Sarmatian women, they are called–on whom not horsemanship only but familiarity with bows and other weapons is enjoined no less than it is on their husbands, and by whom it is equally cultivated. Besides, here is a consideration I would submit to you. If such results are feasible, then I say the present practice in our part of the world is the same pursuits with all their energies. In fact, almost every one of our cities on our present system is, and finds itself to be, only the half of what it might be at the same cost in expenditure and trouble. And yet, what an amazing oversight in a legislator!
— Plato, Laws, Bk. 7, 804c–805b


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Right Logic: Education is my theme. I'll tell how it was in
days gone by
When Sobriety was its goal, and truth like mine was rated
high.
Children then had no license to chatter; gravely they
marched to school,
The boys of a village all in a body, simplicity was the rule,
Not muffled in wraps though it snowed a blizzard, striding
with legs apart,
Singing some old and martial strain just as their elders had
taught.
If anyone ventured to corrupt the tune with trills
or syncopations,
As Phrynis' followers are wont to do with freakish
innovations,
His hide would be trounced on the Muses' account as
crassly irreverent.
Before the master they modestly sat, not sprawlingly
impudent.
No part unseemly could ever be seen; when they rose
they smoothed the soil,
Their bodies' impress to erase and drooling lovers to foil.
No lad was anointed below the belt, but like the velvety
peach
Free and unconstricted bloomed the natural furze of the
breech.
They did not modulate the voice a lecherous ear to entice,
Nor sway their hips and flaunt themselves to attract
lecherous eyes.
From radish heads they all abstained and such fare
aphrodisiac
Anise and parsley left untouched to supply the old men's lack.
No sea-food dainties and no guzzling, or twining legs
behind one's back.
Wrong Logic: Chewing tobacco, revival meetings, chatau-
quas,
Hoopskirts, fascinators, antimacassars!
Right Logic: Yet ‘twas that antique discipline which
Marathon heroes did nurture:
In long warm cloaks those softies go to whom you teach
your culture.
When in the Panathenaic dances they are called on to
perform,
Behind their shields they huddle close and insult the
Triton-born;
Choked am I with indignation at the spectacle so tragic.
Wherefore choose me, my brave young friend, choose me,
the better Logic.
The market place you'll learn to hate, from hot baths to
abstain,
Of shameful deeds to be ashamed, flouting scorners to
disdain;
To yield your seat to honored elders, your parents never
to vex,
No disgrace to perpetrate, to mold in yourself as in wax
The image chaste of modesty, not to loiter and not to stare
At the naked dancing girls—you'd shatter reputation fair
By accepting their invitation; nor show your father im-
pertinence,
Reviling as a fogy the very source of youthful sustenance.
— Aristophanes, Clouds, p. 127


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The wretched tablet, which I tire myself waxing each month, lies orphaned before the bed-post next the wall, except when he looks at it as if it were Hades and writes nothing good, but scrapes it all smooth.
— Herodas, Third Mime


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In your childhood you were reared in abject poverty. You helped your father in the drudgery of grammar school, grinding the ink, sponging the benches, and sweeping the schoolroom.
— Demosthenes, De Corona, 258

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