The concept of education in the “Allegoryof the Cave” is relevant today in more ways than it is not. Today’s teachersare actively and vigorously trying to find creative and innovative ways to teachstudents required material. Meanwhile, professors and researchers are alwaysexploring and trying to adapt to different realities. The teachers’ devotionand efforts follow an idea that is found in the allegory about the importanceof education- the idea that learning and discovering without going back to thecave in order to teach the prisoners about the truth is equivalent to not everleaving the cave in the first place. Another idea in the allegory that isrelevant today is about the process of learning that the scholars are goingthrough. Learning is not an immediate transition, but a phase in which a personis exposed to some sort of new information, or light, for a time period andadapts to it.
This adaptation process can act as a metaphor to academic research.The process requires a lot of time and hard work, and the results are usuallynot easy to understand. On the other hand, people today are becoming more awareof the fact that there is a world out there to be explored. In other words,more people today seek university education and students are learning to bemore accepting. The will to learn and discover does not clash with the obligationof the educated to teach, contrary to the rejection of the truth shown by theprisoners in the allegory. The education system has changed a lot inrecent years. New teaching methods are introduced, such as online classes orhome education.
One of the main reasons for those changes because it isunderstood that simply sitting in class and listening to different professorstalk for hours and hours is not effective for all students. Therefore,educators are looking to find more educational methods, in order to offer anideal match for every student. Those efforts go along with a point made in theallegory- “You have received a better and more complete education than theothers, and you are more capable of sharing both ways of life. Down you must gothen, each in his turn, to the habitation of the others and accustom yourselvesto the observation of the obscure things there.
For once habituated you willdiscern them infinitely better than the dwellers there, and you will know whateach of the ‘idols’ is and whereof it is a semblance, because you have seen thereality of the beautiful, the just and the good” (520, c). The significance ofeducation is stressed out in the allegory. It is not enough for the educated toenjoy the truth, the light outside the tunnel. Once exposed to the light andthe reality is seen, it is both an obligation and a virtue to return and teachabout that reality. There is a good reason to keep theallegory in mind even today, since opening our eyes is an infinite advancementprocess.
In the real world, there is not only one cave and one light outside ofit. Albert Einstein once said: “As our circle of knowledge expands, so does thecircumference of darkness surrounding it.” That is, the more we discover aboutthe world, we understand how limited our knowledge was beforehand. Initially,just like the prisoners in the allegory, we think we understand the wholeworld. However, as we work our way outside the cave and get used to the newlife, we also start seeing more shades, hearing more echoes and are beinglimited by more chains.
We might give them different names and this new worldmight be larger and different. This world might also make a lot more sense tous. In the end, though, it is another cave. For every question we find ananswer to, we discover multiple new questions that we were never aware of theirexistence.
Therefore, this process of discovery and educating is successful,but also never-ending. If we acted like the prisoners in the allegory, we wouldnot be getting anywhere. For this reason, the message we should take from theallegory is that we should listen and accept those who come from outside thecave, even if they seem completely different than what we got used to. While there are many truths to theallegory in the real world, the depressing lack of acceptance described byPlato in the allegory is not entirely apparent today. “And if it were possibleto lay hands on and to kill the man who tried to release them and lead them up,would they not kill him? They certainly would, he said” (517, a). That dystopiacan perhaps be seen not as a description of the world, but as a warning sign tosociety. It acts as a message to always question everything we see, hear ortouch, even if it is right in front of us and we think we can explain itperfectly. One example of a metaphor from the allegory that does not have atrue equivalent in real life is the violence and stubbornness shown by theprisoners.
If students simply mocked and ridiculed anyone who would try toteach them anything and refused to accept new information, we would be stuck asa society and never advance anywhere. Today’s students would be tomorrow’steachers, but the new teachers will not provide new information. The messagethe new educators will try to deliver will not be built on top of recentdiscoveries and advancements. As a result, if we lived in such a cycle where nonew knowledge was accepted and processed, our life today would look completelydifferent.
It can be deduced from the allegory that our life today should,therefore, be identical to the life of our ancestors because of the lack ofwill to accept anything that is new and different, but our life is obviously differentin many ways.Plato’s”Allegory of the Cave” describes education is a way that is still relevanttoday in many aspects. It is astounding to think how relevant his messages aregiven the fact that the philosopher was born in the 5th century BC.The story should act as a guide both for people who seek education, and foreducated people. It should warn us that if we do not want to live like blindand deaf prisoners in a cave, we should be open to listen to others. Knowledgeseekers have to keep in mind that their educators sometimes sound or actdifferently after exposure to knowledge.
The educators have to remember thatthe exposure and the experience with the knowledge might have changed the waythey see different things. Therefore, the education process is not an obvious one,but one that requires a lot of effort and hard work from both the learner andthe teacher.