Much was anticipated long before the coming of the Christ by the philosopher Plato. He was a father of Athens waiting in God’s Providence for the Christ. He built a set of questions that only Christmas could answer
Plato did not know to count down the days of Christmas, but the incarnation came. The Word made flesh gave us the grace and truth we needed to educate without indoctrination or lies.
Plato created classical education in his dialog Republic. In Book VII, Plato introduces his cave analogy by saying:
Next,” said I, “compare our nature in respect of education and its lack to such an experience as this. Picture men dwelling in a sort of subterranean cavern. . .
That Plato is speaking about education has been missed by many readers, that he is talking of our nature in respect to this education is discussed by even fewer commentators. Education or the lack of education impacts our very nature. We become what we are taught. When we do not, when we think we have “escaped,” too often this is merely the slavery of becoming the mirror image of what we once were taught.
The education of the triumphalist ideologue will create prisoners in a cave. They are proud to parade their knowledge of what entertainment tells them is true. They work hard to learn what the puppet masters wish them to learn. They are experts on shadows on walls. As result, they are not free men and women.
The nature of those educated by the tyrant becomes slavish, unfit for liberty.
The education of slaves does a long, slow, steady work in the mind and heart of the enslaved. The choice is freely made to accept one route or the other, but the slavish training doesn’t always “take.” He is born free, but becomes a slave. You cannot make a man without a slavish nature a slave, you can merely enslave him with power. This is a loser’s game. Frederick Douglass, freed in his soul before freed in his body, shows in a great genius nothing can stop the literate man!Schools with the slavish curriculum teach: liberty is self-indulgence, freedom means starvation, and “free” work is done by someone else. Again this is the classical, Christian, Orthodox curriculum where liberty is being able to act virtuously, freedom is doing duty voluntarily, and everyone should work toward a common vision, not just a few in an organization.
What would happen if everyone (or nearly everyone) taught? We mandate this at the College and Saint Constantine School and it makes all the difference. Teachers make different decisions when they administrate than administrators who long ago once were teachers. Schools exist for teaching and not fundamentally for administrating those who teach, but our salaries, structure, and planning rarely reflect this truth.
Plato ends Republic with a story about a man who comes back from the dead and teaches us that there is justice in God’s cosmos. He says of this myth:
[621c] And it will save us if we believe it, and we shall safely cross the River of Lethe, and keep our soul unspotted from the world.2 But if we are guided by me we shall believe that the soul is immortal and capable of enduring all extremes of good and evil, and so we shall hold ever to the upward way and pursue righteousness with wisdom always and ever, that we may be dear to ourselves3 and to the gods both during our sojourn here and when we receive our reward,
Classical education could only save us by hoping that a man would die, come back from the dead, and tell us that God is just. This resurrected man would assure us the beloved community would exist in the world to come. . .that justice would come over eternity.
What Plato hoped for, Jesus was.
What Plato wrote, Paul preached on Mars Hill.
So classical Christian education was born.
May this true story, the Myth that happened in history, save us.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.