The concept of education in the “Allegory
of the Cave” is relevant today in more ways than it is not. Today’s teachers
are actively and vigorously trying to find creative and innovative ways to teach
students required material. Meanwhile, professors and researchers are always
exploring and trying to adapt to different realities. The teachers’ devotion
and efforts follow an idea that is found in the allegory about the importance
of education- the idea that learning and discovering without going back to the
cave in order to teach the prisoners about the truth is equivalent to not ever
leaving the cave in the first place. Another idea in the allegory that is
relevant today is about the process of learning that the scholars are going
through. Learning is not an immediate transition, but a phase in which a person
is exposed to some sort of new information, or light, for a time period and
adapts 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 usually
not easy to understand. On the other hand, people today are becoming more aware
of 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 be
more accepting. The will to learn and discover does not clash with the obligation
of the educated to teach, contrary to the rejection of the truth shown by the
prisoners in the allegory.

     The education system has changed a lot in
recent years. New teaching methods are introduced, such as online classes or
home education. One of the main reasons for those changes because it is
understood that simply sitting in class and listening to different professors
talk for hours and hours is not effective for all students. Therefore,
educators are looking to find more educational methods, in order to offer an
ideal match for every student. Those efforts go along with a point made in the
allegory- “You have received a better and more complete education than the
others, and you are more capable of sharing both ways of life. Down you must go
then, each in his turn, to the habitation of the others and accustom yourselves
to the observation of the obscure things there. For once habituated you will
discern them infinitely better than the dwellers there, and you will know what
each of the ‘idols’ is and whereof it is a semblance, because you have seen the
reality of the beautiful, the just and the good” (520, c). The significance of
education is stressed out in the allegory. It is not enough for the educated to
enjoy the truth, the light outside the tunnel. Once exposed to the light and
the reality is seen, it is both an obligation and a virtue to return and teach
about that reality.

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     There is a good reason to keep the
allegory in mind even today, since opening our eyes is an infinite advancement
process. In the real world, there is not only one cave and one light outside of
it. Albert Einstein once said: “As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the
circumference of darkness surrounding it.” That is, the more we discover about
the world, we understand how limited our knowledge was beforehand. Initially,
just like the prisoners in the allegory, we think we understand the whole
world. However, as we work our way outside the cave and get used to the new
life, we also start seeing more shades, hearing more echoes and are being
limited by more chains. We might give them different names and this new world
might be larger and different. This world might also make a lot more sense to
us. In the end, though, it is another cave. For every question we find an
answer to, we discover multiple new questions that we were never aware of their
existence. Therefore, this process of discovery and educating is successful,
but also never-ending. If we acted like the prisoners in the allegory, we would
not be getting anywhere. For this reason, the message we should take from the
allegory is that we should listen and accept those who come from outside the
cave, even if they seem completely different than what we got used to.

     While there are many truths to the
allegory in the real world, the depressing lack of acceptance described by
Plato in the allegory is not entirely apparent today. “And if it were possible
to 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 dystopia
can perhaps be seen not as a description of the world, but as a warning sign to
society. It acts as a message to always question everything we see, hear or
touch, even if it is right in front of us and we think we can explain it
perfectly. One example of a metaphor from the allegory that does not have a
true equivalent in real life is the violence and stubbornness shown by the
prisoners. If students simply mocked and ridiculed anyone who would try to
teach them anything and refused to accept new information, we would be stuck as
a society and never advance anywhere. Today’s students would be tomorrow’s
teachers, but the new teachers will not provide new information. The message
the new educators will try to deliver will not be built on top of recent
discoveries and advancements. As a result, if we lived in such a cycle where no
new knowledge was accepted and processed, our life today would look completely
different. 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 of
will to accept anything that is new and different, but our life is obviously different
in many ways.

“Allegory of the Cave” describes education is a way that is still relevant
today in many aspects. It is astounding to think how relevant his messages are
given 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 for
educated people. It should warn us that if we do not want to live like blind
and deaf prisoners in a cave, we should be open to listen to others. Knowledge
seekers have to keep in mind that their educators sometimes sound or act
differently after exposure to knowledge. The educators have to remember that
the exposure and the experience with the knowledge might have changed the way
they 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 and
the teacher.



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