Plato’s Republic: The Education of the Gaurdians Essay

The Republic of Plato is a book consisting of dialogues held by Plato. Glaucon and Adeimantus are participants in Plato’s dialogues. Plato was a Greek philosopher who lived from 427 to 347 B.C. The topic I am going to discuss is the topic of Education. I chose this topic because it is of interest to me since I am going to work in the field of education. I will use chapters 8 and 9 for my discussion.

In order to discuss the education of the guardians, I need to talk about who the guardians are and why they are needed. There are two sections of Guardians. The higher section is the Philosophic Rulers and the lower section is the warriors. The warriors must obey the rulers. I will discuss the guardians as one section since the Rulers are picked after the primary education of the Guardians is completed. The guardians will consist of fit men who have the natural gifts of being the protectors of the commonwealth. Guardians are created when the country begins to be too small for it’s inhabitants. The country must then take land from neighboring countries in order to be able to accommodate all of the citizens. Guardians would also be needed to maintain internal order between the citizens. The Guardians will have to be both fierce and gentle. They must be fierce in order to go to war or ward off invasion. They need to be gentle when they are dealing with the citizens of the state.

The primary education the Guardians is started after they have been chosen. The Guardians are picked even before they can acquire language so that they can easily be molded into the perfect warriors. The first part of their education would be on literature. Literature consists of stories being told that are actual events that took place or fictitious ones. Story telling is the earliest form of education a child receives from their mothers or other caregivers. Plato felt that most tales were unsatisfactory because of their content and must be supervised. Plato believed that these false tales that talked about the faults of Gods and heroes would mold children. The tales deemed unfit for a child to hear would be discarded. Plato felt that literature is very influential to individuals. Literature with topics such as Gods against Gods and misdeeds were untruthful. Plato believed that literature must contain stories of truth and the divine nature of humans, which is good. Plato strongly held that in order to achieve this, then literature must be censored. This would insure that the Guardians would not become immoral and unjust.

The second principle of literature would be theology. This would tie in with literature because stories are conveyed. Plato feels that certain aspects of theology would have to be censored such as heaven being responsible for everything, both good and evil. Plato feels that stories that would make the Guardians become god-fearing should be eliminated because a Guardian should not fear God. Plato says that Guardians would fear God if they thought that God could take on any form in order to deceive them. This reminds me of the lecture in class about the Evil Genius. If a God is able to take on another form then it could only be for the worse. If a God were perfect and good then he would not be affected by outside influences and would be able to maintain his perfection. The children must learn that God cannot take on different shapes or fly around at night to deceive them such as some stories state. If children only learn about what is good then they will be able to find the divine nature in themselves.

The third principle of literature is the stories of heroes. Stories of heroes that are to be told should only consist of heroes who hold the same values and characteristics, which the Guardians should have. The heroes told in stories should be brave, unafraid of death, and are not dependent on others. Stories of heroes that are loathsome, misleading, and lack self-control must be discarded. This will insure that theGuardians will be brave. Plato considered bravery to be one of the most important attributes a guardian should possess.

The second part of education would be dramatic recitation. The first part of education focused on the content of literature so the second part must focus on the form. The three forms of storytelling are dramatic, tragedy, and comedy. Plato feels that a poet should not be able to tell a story in dramatic form. Dramatic form is when a poet tells a story by acting out different characters in a story. If a person is able to imitate different characters then he might be able to take on the characteristics of the character. This may not be good for the Guardians because they may take on some negative characteristics. This is why poets who use this form will not be allowed to tell their tales to the Guardians.
The third part of education would be music. Music is used to accompany a poem. Certain rhythms and modes would convey a specific mood or feeling. Rhythm and mode would now have to be censored just as the poem itself had to. Only modes that express traits a guardian should hold will be left uncensored. The modes that express sorrow, drunkenness, effeminacy, and inactivity would have to be discarded. Modes that express bravery, endurance, peacefulness, and success would be considered meaningful.

The fourth part of education would be the aim of education. Poetry and music is very important for the Guardians. Plato himself best tells the purpose of education in literature and music. Plato states, “Rhythm and harmony sink deep into the recesses of the soul and take the strongest hold there, bringing that grace of body and mind which is only to be found in one who is brought up in the right way. Moreover, a proper training in this kind makes a man quick to perceive any defect or ugliness in art and nature” (chapter 9, page 90). This means that the Guardian can distinguish the good from the ugly. When he can distinguish ugliness he will be able to ignore it and be able to maintain his divine nature.
The final part of education would be the physical training of the warrior. Physical training must be carefully regulated for the moment the guardian is a child until he is an adult. The Guardian must have a healthy body and maintain perfect physical condition. The Guardian must also maintain sobriety so the he will not need a Guardian himself. Physical training is an important aspect because an educated Guardian would be of no use if he were unable to protect and serve.
There are certain aspects such as censorship and a changing God that I felt a certain way about before I read this book, but now feel differently. With regards to censorship, I always felt that any form of censorship was wrong. I now feel that censorship is sometimes needed after reading Plato’s views on censorship. I thought it was wrong for libraries to censor certain material. I now understand that educators and parents do not want their easily impressionable children to read books that could teach unjust or morally wrong principles. Books have been taken out of libraries and classrooms that contain explicit material and teach prejudice and evil. Censorship is needed for children as Plato says. As an adult you should feel free to read what you want since you have already been shaped. Plato’s view on a God who does not change form is also something I now agree on. This view has actually changed my whole perspective on my religious views and has leaded me to search for a new one. I first read this book two years ago. I thought about my religion, which is Catholicism, and their view on God holding other forms. This religion believes in apparitions and symbols. Since God is perfection, then he would not need to take on other forms. As of now I am still studying other religions.

In conclusion, I feel that Plato’s take on education is well developed. Changes sometimes have to be made to literature and music in order to produce a noble warrior. Plato’s feelings on primary education would make a just Guardian and would truly bring out his divine nature.