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If you want to teach philosophy to young people, start with some of Plato's myths, as recounted in his book The Republic. The most potent myth from Plato is the Allegory of the Cave. It's such a vivid metaphor for illustrating a specific type of search for truth — that your students will get it right away and not only enjoy reading the source material with you, but they'll surprise you with their takes on the narratives and connections to the real world.
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Philosophy in the Classroom: Sample Student Work on Plato's Allegory of the Cave (With Thirteen and Fourteen-Year-Old Kids)
|Sample Work from Mr. Roselli's 8th Grade Ethics Class|
I taught the 8th Graders every Tuesday as part of my teaching load this past school year. I teach at a private, independent school in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. The kids are receptive to learning - albeit a rowdy bunch. The class was split into two. So basically I saw each group every other week. The class was PASS/FAIL and I put a lot of emphasis on student participation, talking, and group work. I uploaded content for them to read and view on Google Classroom so I did not have to spend a lot of time going over the material in class. Here is a short overview of one particular lesson I did (with some student work).
Reading Plato's Allegory of the Cave in a Middle School Ethics Class
We read Plato's cave in class - using a lesson I had created (and which you can access here). The kids were in eighth grade - so they would be thirteen or fourteen years old.
Kids' Understanding of Plato's Ideas
|Students jot down their summary ideas to get the gist.|
Getting Students to Jot Down Their Ideas
Using Visual Imagery to Make Connections with Students
Class: Eighth Grade Ethics / 90 Minute Lesson (you can break it down into two separate 45-minute lessons)
Materials: paper, pencils, pen, handouts of the Allegory of the Cave, Comprehension Questions, Discussion Questions, Entrance, and Exit Tickets
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middle and high school English teachers
|Confucius and Socrates Represent a Renaissance of Thought|
© 2013 Greig Roselli
blushing belies betrayal
betrayal of the body
the body belied
but catching thrasymachus in a blush
says the professor
a critical juncture blushing
calls thrasymachus out
that one cannot
forfeit an argument?
even if one knows forfeiting is the right thing to do
our body forfeits for us
in a crowd of philosophers
vying for truth
to get the answer wrong is an admission of failure
of not getting it
and we want to get it
so we plow on regardless
but our body -
it sees our flaw
and quickens -
blood flows more fully
and all can see our less than comfortable
feeling of resting with a certain unjustified truth
|Socrates with folks in Athens in Raphael's painting "The School of Athens"|
For I perplex others, not because I am clear, but because I am utterly perplexed myself.
οὐ γὰρ εὐπορῶν αὐτὸς τοὺς ἄλλους ποιῶ ἀπορεῖν, ἀλλὰ παντὸς μᾶλλον αὐτὸς ἀπορῶν οὕτως καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ποιῶ ἀπορεῖν.
PDF Copy for Printing
|Henry Fuseli, Tiresias appears to |
Ulysses during the sacrificing (1780-1785)
Yesterday I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for my bi-monthly one hour visit. I go to the museum immediately after psychoanalysis. I'm sure there is a connection to that somehow. Reliving painful experience followed by the need to be absorbed by beauty seems like a rational explanation. Also: proximity. Dr. X's office is on the Upper East Side so it is not too far of a walk to attend a visit to one of the world's most voluminous holders of art. I checked in my bags. Bag attendant: "Do you have any electronic devices?" I answer a laconic "no." "Do you mind if we inspect your bag, sir?" I am secretly relieved my latest issue of Wet and Wild is absent. Just kidding. This is a kid-friendly blog. So I will say, "just kidding." Although I am sure there are a few number of kids who do read this blog. And if they do and they are scandalized then I am sure I can rightly join the ranks of Socrates's who was charged with "corruption of the youth." In fact, I just had a conversation about Socrates's trial in class last Thursday. Most students agree that Socrates is a cool cat. But, I wonder if they would have liked him if they had actually met him. I too think Socrates is a cool cat but I have a suspicion that I would not like him very much. I think it is the passage in the Meno that compares him to a stingray. Meno tells him that his frequent and accumulating questions without answers numb him like a sting ray's sting (or a jellyfish?). Why be so numbing Socrates? It goes against educational practice today. We are not supposed to overload our students with too many questions. Socrates asks Meno one question after another. Without answer. And more complicated. Can virtue be taught? He does not like Meno's answer so he asks him more questions. How can we get at the heart of virtue? Do we even know what virtue is in its essence? I don't think Socrates is satisfied that strength tells us anything about courage as a whole or that healthy bones tell us anything about health. Socrates wants to get at the heart of the matter. We don't know anything about the essence of a virtue. In fact we know nothing for certain about wholes in of themselves. We know via recollection. We remember knowledge. Since we existed before this life (our souls are immortal) we come into corporeal existences with the memory of our past existence buried deep within us. Knowledge is memory recall. The puzzle is the access to our soul's knowledge is not an open flood way. It is more like a dam with tiny holes allowing a minuscule of seepage to pass through. Damn transmigration of souls. How can I know anything if I do not even know that I must remember to know? That is the stingray part. At least for me. How do I access the treasure trove of knowledge from above? Do I look at beautiful things to stimulate my mind to recollect? Socrates suggests it is all by mere chance. So remember and some don't. The son of a wise man is not necessarily wise. The key is the tether. When you got it — hold it down. Don't let a morsel of knowledge get away and be able to distinguish the dross from the good stuff. I like how the Meno ends. Odysseus was able to identify Tiresias among the shades in Hell because Tiresias shone with a special light. He was a flitter of glory among shadows. In other words who knows when we will "get it"; maybe never, but the thing is, when we do in fact see it, we will know it.