Jennifer asked me to read “Plato: the Great Philosopher-Educator” from the series, “Giants in the History of Education” published by Classical Academic Press. Having read other books in the series, I gladly accepted. A short and concise book, “Plato: the Great Philosopher-Educator” is a great confidence booster for gathering up the courage to read the Republic or just getting to know one of the most cited people in Classical Education.
The book is under 60 pages which includes, seven chapters and discussion questions. The first three chapters focus on building a general picture of the man, his family, his world, and his influences. Chapter One focuses on the life of Plato, his basic familial background, and his contributions to the world around him. With his short biography mentioned, chapter two focuses on the contrast of Athens and Sparta giving the reader a historical, political, and cultural context for Plato’s philosophical and educational ideals. I found this chapter to be extremely interesting, because of the contrast between Athens and Sparta. Up until this point, I was still thinking of Plato as a philosophical powerhouse; I had been neglecting how important his arguments were to the education and morality of his day. This chapter was the link to connect my understanding of Plato’s importance in Classical Education to his contribution to the philosophers I studied in college. Continuing in chapter three, Diener pursues the general educational state of Athens and Sparta during Plato’s life with attention paid to the group called the Sophists and their influence on Plato’s own educational philosophy.
Chapters four and five are a concise explanation of what Plato believes about the nature of education, the purpose of education, the curriculum, and the pedagogy. Chapter four discusses Plato’s understanding of forming the whole man who has a balanced mind and body embodying virtue in order to shape his state and oblige his comic duty. Diener relates the importance of gymnastics, music, and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and harmony). Chapter five expands into the curriculum Plato prescribes using examples from the Republic for the reader to understand how Plato viewed justice. Later in the chapter, the reader learns about how a teacher should engage his students using various methods of instruction all with the thought of well-directed play and a carefully controlled environment.
The last two chapters are placing Plato in the world since he lived. Diener presents the gravity of Plato’s questions to the reader allowing the reader to see how much influence Plato had with well-known historical figures like Aristotle that later influenced much of the European world at various times. In chapter seven, the relevance to the current age is explored.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, not just for its content but its accessibility. I may have had a slight introduction to Plato as a philosopher; however, this book was a concise reference for Plato as the father of Classical Education. I believe that anyone interested in reading Plato for the first time would benefit from this book especially if they do not have any background knowledge of Plato or his work. Since there are discussion questions, this would be a fabulous book club read as it is short, concise, and is accessibly written. Get your copy from Classical Academic Press.
I’m Ashley, I blog over at Between the Linens, where I write about classical homeschool and liturgical living. I am a Catholic, a wife, a homeschooling mother, and a lover of wisdom. I grew up here and there eventually settling in Mississippi to finish out my bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts. I graduated with a concentration in anthropology and classical studies. I loved academia, and I would have loved to pursue a position in the ranks. However, God had a much different plan. I left a master’s degree and a PHD offer to become a wife and mother. Last year, I was privileged to participate in the Circe Atrium where I was able to dive deeper into the principles of the Christian Classical Tradition. I believe that classical education is not just for our children. We are the parents and the primary educators of our children. As such, we have to be willing to heal our own organs of truth perception.