What is the relationship between the allegory of the cave and education?What is the relationship between the allegory of the cave and education?

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The allegory of the cave tells us what education is about.  In the cave, the citizens never see "reality" (the Forms) ... they only get to see the shadows on the wall that the Forms cast.  Of course, they have never seen anything else, so they think the forms are reality.  They are chained so they cannot look behind them or gain any insight from those around them who also suspect that the shadows are reality and make more noise than sense.  If one of them can break free into the light of day, that person (the philosopher) may then be able to come back into the cave to enlighten the other citizens about what reality is.  Of course, they are not going to take what he has to say all that well ... after all, he will be negating all they have ever held as true.

The purpose of education is the same.  Although there are many intermediate goals (facts to be learned, skills to be mastered), the ultimate goal of education is to move us out of the cave, out of what Frost calls, "[The] darkness as it seems to me/Not of woods only and the shade of trees" (Mending Wall) and into the light of knowledge.  Education leads us to question facts, to seek new information, to question old assumptions, and to move closer to the "truth" than students and teachers were before.

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