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Ancient Greek Education Theories and Modern Education System

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Ancient Greek Education Theories and Modern Education System

The education policy and the curriculum of education in the United States have been heavily influenced by the ideas of ancient scholars, such as Plato and Aristotle. These ancient educational theories have provided the fundamental structure of current curriculum for our primary education. In this paper, I will be summarizing primary educational theories of Plato and Aristotle. Afterwards, I aim to utilize theories of both philosophers to discuss the relevance of the education ideology of these scholars to current educational policy and practices in the United States today.

Plato's Theory of Education in Politics

Plato leads his theory by separating the states into three classes corresponding with the three parts of the soul: appetite, the spirited, and the rational. He argues that each part of the souls correlates to the classes of people. "Since our aim is to see that the city as a whole has the greatest happiness - we must compel and persuade the auxiliaries and guardians to follow our other policy and be the best possible craftsmen at their own work, and the same with all the others. In this way, with the whole city developing and being governed well, we must leave it to nature to provide each group with its share of happiness" (Plato. IV. 421b). To achieve greatest happiness as a whole, Plato theorizes that it is important for each and every citizen to always exercise what he believes is best for the city. Through separation of classes, the city begins to indoctrinate citizens since birth to prescribe the attribution through primary education based on social class and avoid meddling and inefficiency.

The appetitive part of soul is responsible for basic desire and appetites within individuals. Plato believes that the appetite class is dominated by representation of farmers, laborer and businessmen. The spirited soul is the source of love and victory. It enforces emotions such as anger and indignation as the result of the frustration of the spirit. The spirited soul falls under the military class, dominated by strong self-restraint and courage and finally the rational soul represents the mind and intellect which brings down to the thinking portion of the individuals. The rational class symbolizes the governing under the elements of justice. His theory revolves around the functionality of these political and educational spheres in accordance of these three components in the states. "This was meant to make clear that each of the other citizens is to be directed to what he is naturally suited for. So that, doing the one work that is his own, he will become not many but one, and the whole city will itself be naturally one not many" (Plato. IV. 423d).The combination of these souls is designed to maintain the balance in socio-economic system to uphold the responsibility of each class to perform its specific function without interfering with duties of the others. While the duties have been individualized, the city aims to combine everyone into one natural entity to promote wholeness for the sake of not only individual, the city.

To uphold the harmony and balance between three social classes in Plato's ideal Republic where individuals can be best served under a just society, he suggests a communistic method of education for two upper classes of the society. "And these two, having been nurtured in this way, and having truly learned their own roles and been educated in them, will govern the appetitive part, which is the largest part in each person's soul and is by nature most insatiable for money. They'll watch over it to see that it isn't filled with the so-called pleasures of the body and that it doesn't become so big and strong that it no longer does its own work but attempts to enslave and rule over the classes it isn't fitted to rule, thereby overturning everyone's whole life" (Plato. IV. 442a). The communistic property and harmonious family life were offered by Plato for both the male and female members of two upper classes while the members of the appetite classes were excluded to focus on simple acquisition of wealth to satisfy their basic principle of appetite. Plato believes that this separated system can sustain justice and happiness within the state through the implementation of educational institution under the state. Through the restricted access to higher education, the state works as an education institution to limit appetite class from thinking about interfering with strict discipline life of two upper classes. This separation allows the members of two upper classes to focus on protecting and ruling of the state. Through selective higher education, the two upper classes are educated to work for the sake of loyalty to the state and their unconditional love for the people. In addition, he acknowledges rare cases where exceptionally brilliant minds of lower ranks being granted access to pursue higher education, In contrast, there are cases where failing rational class students may be demoted or even possibly rejected from advancement.

According to Plato, "even in small children, one can see that they are full of spirit right from birth, while as far as rational calculation is concerned, some never seem to get a share of it, while the majority do so quite late" (Plato. IV. 441a). Based on this observation, Plato devises the stages of education by years. Each stage corresponds to the level of education and the normative knowledge that a child must learn as a child advances to the next level of the education stage. From birth to age six, all children, regardless of class, must be nurtured by their parents, particularly by their mothers. In addition, it is possible that the additional training can be applied from age three and above by the female members of the community in the nurseries. From age six to ten, all free citizens of the state are obligated to attend Music Schools and Gymnasia, which is similar to our modern education of public funded elementary education. The appetite class is limited to primary education by the restriction of formal education. From age ten to eighteen, the future warriors and philosophers advance to post-priory education, which corresponds to our own middle and high school education but emphasis on mathematics, arts and military training. This was the limit for the spirited class but after completion of the education, the members from both classes were advanced to a two-year compulsory national service. Thereafter, from age twenty onward, the spirited class is expected to commit to their military service while the governing class continues its formal education in mathematics, sciences and philosophy up to age of fifty. When the member of the governing



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