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Socrates Philosophy on Education - What Is Character Education?

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What is character education? How does character education instill positive virtues? Andrew Mullins author of "Parenting for Character," tells parents that children learn virtue through "positive example, loving confident encouragement to meet challenging expectations, clear consistent explanation and direction, routines and responsibilities with accountability and clear constructive correction." He addresses that character education is the teaching of virtues, if virtues are not reinforced and modeled at home the child will not exhibit good character, or positive virtues (Waterfield).

Andrew Mullin's opinion of character education associates proportionally to Socrates's belief of how the young should be educated and that if not taught right children will adapt to wrong doings. As a Socratic Reformer of Socrates' teaching I believe Socrates is correct. Socrates believed in outlawing the use of traditional stories in educating the young because they teach children the wrong things. This paper discusses the importance aspects for providing the right education to the young with examples and references to Socrates beliefs in Plato's Republic.

In the Republic, Socrates expresses that education begins with the telling of tales in the earliest years of childhood because that is when people are at their most naive state in life. He stresses that the telling of these tales need to be censored because young children absorb all of which they are exposed to. Socrates states, "A young child can't judge what is hidden sense and what is not; but what he takes into his opinions at that age has a tendency to become hard to eradicate and unchangeable" (378d). Unable to distinguish the difference between good and bad in essence harvests examples of how one is not to behave, if the virtues stated are of bad, children will only use bad examples to justify their own bad behavior (391e). And through the telling of these tales mothers and nurses will form their children's souls (377c). This exhibits that children are to assume whatever they are taught from those they entrust if ones guardians were taught wrong then ones child will instill the same teachings. In closing of this point, Socrates believed that anything in youth "assimilates itself to the model whose stamp anyone wishes to give to it" (377b).

The purpose of tales is to show means of virtue and create fragments of religion which is stressed solely in providing the right way to base character. In the Republic, Socrates picks apart the poetry of Homer and Hesiod. He says that these poet's tales include bad lies, demonstrating false images of the gods and heroes (377e). That gods must never be perceived as unjust for fear will lead to acceptance to do injustice. Also, tales should not depict fighting among the gods and children must actively be told that citizens have never been angry with one another (378c). By hearing this, children will learn the importance of unity and will be less likely to act in fighting when they are grown. As well as ceasing to have fighting to exist, children must be told that the gods are not the cause of all things but only to things of which are good and just (380c). Likewise, gods cannot be said to punish unless it is for the punishers benefit, change shape/form, or lie. By making the gods incapable of dishonesty and only associated with what is good Socrates disassociates them from the world of men where lying and deception are forever-present. In result of separating gods from men, it prevents the tales of the gods from being used as a model for human behavior. Instead, children essentially should look only to human guardians and the law for guidance to act.




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