CH1 L53: Education – part III (Akademia)

  1. In the last post, we discussed that one of the main problems with teaching concepts is that they’re taught as symbols [1]. We saw that to understand the concept of tragedy, students should read or watch some tragic novels, plays or movies, then find the common element which is a failure. Afterward, their teacher should say that this concept is called “tragedy”. However, in traditional systems, teachers introduce the concept of tragedy and give some examples like Othello, Macbeth, etc [2].
  1. Raphael [3] painted Plato’s Akademia [4] where Plato [5] discussed problems with his students. We can see from the picture that everyone is either deeply pondering ideas or enthusiastically discussing them [6,7]. Raphael wasn’t a member of Akademia’s marketing department. The students, who are each a philosopher, would enjoy learning because Akademia for some reasons was the ideal place:
    1. First and foremost, nobody had been forced to learn. In fact, in many traditional schools, students had to prove themselves to a master. Learning, somehow, is mental suffering or exercise; so, accepting physical hardships or challenges could be a promising sign that the student would be tenacious enough to work hard and never give up.
    2. You can see that the students were old enough to know the importance of education. They didn’t need to deal with their adolescent issues and emotional ups and downs. I’d like to point out that Platonic love [8] could’ve originated from the attraction between students and teachers. Plato mentions that if you transcend to the realm of ideas and fall in love with someone’s mind or soul (totally dismissing the sexual desire), then that love would have a higher value [9].
    3. The amount of knowledge back then was by far less than what the 21st- century students are expected to learn. As we discussed in the 17th post [10], we’ve historically traded off the physical difficulty against mental hardship. So, we’re supposed to know much more than what someone knew even 100 years ago.
    4. Those people were seeking knowledge for the sake of truth or divinity. They didn’t want to get a qualification or something to look for a job with. Though I’m aware that we should consider practicality or outcome of our effort, I believe that just thinking about results kills creativity or deep understanding [11].
    5. The dark side of the painting is slavery [12]. Many Athenians had slaves and those who didn’t need to work could devote their time and energy in pursuit of knowledge.
    6. They didn’t have a fixed curriculum. They usually thought about the questions Plato or someone else brought up.
    7. Finally, Akademia didn’t charge for membership. It means that there were no transactions. Everything as Plato expected had transcended to the realm of ideas.
  2. Now you can see why Akademia sounds utopian. Because, nowadays, it’s rather impossible to have such an academy. Almost every kid has to go to school to stuff their brain with a lot of information in a fixed period even if they don’t know why while struggling with their emotional needs, and they do it just to go to university to get a qualification or something; above all, they pay a great deal of money especially if they go to private schools.
  3. To be honest, I just wanted to use the comparison to study the problem with conceptual learning in the industrial system of education, but each reason branched out to more. So, let’s discuss them in the next post.


[1] Link to the previous posts

[2] You can refer to the 51st post where we discussed tragedy. Link

[3] Link to the Wiki page about Raphael

[4] Link to the Wiki page about Platonic Academy

[5] Link to the Wiki page about Plato

[6] The central figures of the painting are Plato and his famous student. Aristotle [Link]. Plato’s finger points at the sky which refers to the realm of ideas, since he believed that they were transcendental. On the other hand, Aristotle points at the earth, the materialistic world and we know that Aristotle was among the first and most influential natural scientists who founded the scientific thinking by categorizing things to define them. Due to their differences, Aristotle left Akademia and established his school, Lyceum [Link]

[7] You must’ve seen Star of David [Link] or generally a hexagram. It is the combination of two triangles, one is pointed upward and the other one downward which refers to the combination of Sky and Earth or our position between them. [Link]

Moroccan 4 Falus coin (1873) Link

[8] Link to the Wiki page about platonic love

[9] Plato introduces the ladder of love to show the hierarchy of love. The ladder starts with the carnal attraction of the body for the body, progressing to a love for body and soul. Eventually, in time, with consequent steps up the ladder, the idea of beauty is eventually no longer connected with a body but entirely united with Being itself. [Link] In my opinion, this idea is very debatable and Plato was so mesmerized by the realm of ideas that he almost dismissed the reality.

[10] Link to the 17th post

[11] There are numerous examples in the history of math and science that doing something which looked absolutely useless had a very practical impact on our lives. The best example would be the imaginary numbers which we’ll discuss later.

[12] Link to the Wiki Page about Slavery in ancient Greece

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