Plato’s Cave and Higher Education

My short essay on “Ignorance and Envy in Academe” appears currently at the website of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.  The essay explores the meaning of Plato’s Parable of the Cave for contemporary higher education.

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4 thoughts on “Plato’s Cave and Higher Education

  1. Thomas Bertonneau’s shrewd observations on Plato’s Parable of the Cave reminded me of the following:

    “By imperceptible degrees of farce, candidates of inconceivable ignorance receive diplomas of knowledge”.

    “Wisdom has been denounced as a learned caprice with which to oppress the unfortunate prisoners of ignorance”.

    I don’t know whether I’m quoting some learned author(s) from memory. I’ve been unable to trace the origin of these remarks – even by ‘googling’.

  2. This essay says:

    [Calling someone ignorant] would be an intolerable scandal because it would imply a hierarchy of values.

    I get a loud grinding of gears sound reading this. PC warriors seem not hesitant but enthusiastic in flinging around the word and idea of ignorance. They are not real nihilists but shielding skeptics—the cultural relativism is never deployed to defend Jim Crow, rather it is deployed to defend the own-baby-eating savages of Australia.

    [Educators] recurrently employ the trope, “how much I learned from my students” or “how much our students have to teach us.”

    I always wonder whether this is a coded message: “What you learned in ed school is bullshit. Trust your experience instead.” Many good teachers seem to have this attitude at least to some considerable extent. The true believers in the ed school line du jour are almost always worthless.

    They have been insisting for forty years in their journals that the difference between what they call “home language” and what honest people recognize as grammatical prose is merely an artifact of oppressive class relations in the society.

    Are they wrong? “Y’all” is objectively inferior to “You?”

    The position of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, which goes back to 1971, puts it this way: “We affirm the students’ right to their own patterns and varieties of language… in which they find their own identity and style. Language scholars long ago denied that the myth of a standard American dialect has any validity. The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another. Such a claim leads to false advice for speakers and writers, and immoral advice for humans.”

    This passage could have been written by pretty much any traditionalist. What is there to object to in it? You like the repulsive homogenization of American culture and its war on regional dialects and customs? You just don’t like Black American English? I don’t either, but you are going further and saying blacks don’t have a right to it? Or that the cultural diversity of which it is one instance is a bad thing?

  3. The standard written language is a dialect. It is the dialect that all people use when they want to be formal in their communications and transparent in their meaning. My colored ancestors in New Orleans spoke French at home, but when my great-grand-uncle gave public addresses, he gave them in the Emersonian English of his day.

    I recommend the speech entitled “Every Man Should Stand Equal Before the Law,” which can be found here:

    http://www.blackpast.org/?q=1864-arnold-bertonneau-every-man-should-stand-equal-law

    Maybe Bill can imagine it in hip-hop lingo, but I can’t.

  4. It never fails to astonish me how insightful our divine Aristocles was. Who better understood the nature of democratic man?

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