Allegory of the Cave for Educators

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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As an educator you will see many different types of students throughout your career. Students from all walks of life. It is up to us to know how to handle these students and find different ways to teach each one. Because all students learn at a different pace and learn from different styles of teaching. We need to be able to adapt and be able to teach these students. Plato’s Allegory is a very unique text and I believe it is also a very useful tool for us educators to use.

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The role for us as educators is to enlighten students and teach them new skills so they can use them in their futures. Plato goes on to say in his text that “?Socrates as a teacher is a “midwife” who does not himself bring forth truth, but rather by means of his questioning causes the learner to rationally apprehend, or give birth to, as it were, truths that were already gestating within” ?Teachers help guild the student towards the truth.? ?Meaning we ?need to be able to enlighten students about the truth behind daily problems they may struggle with. Students can live in a cave all their lives and not really be exposed to the outside world. Like Plato’s allegory we need to liberate those students and let then know what they already know is not necessarily wrong, but also let them know the different side of things. The prisoners in the text are watching a puppet show for almost their entire lives. That is their reality and they don’t know any different. One of the prisoners becomes enlightened when he breaks free and turns to see the fire behind them, almost recognising his own ignorance. “Retreat to the things he could see properly, which he would think really clearer than the things being shown him.” To me this may be the case for some students. They don’t want to accept the new knowledge and want to retreat back to their old way of thinking or retreat back to what they know. We as teachers must push our students beyond that inisal fear.

We have to be able to show them the “light.” I believe Plato was referring to the people in the cave as society. That we are the prisoners looking at only shadows of what really is. I think the outside world represents new ideas, thoughts and actual reality. I believe that Plato is trying to tell us that education is a struggle. Leaving what we know behind and progressing into this new world is a challenge. It a challenge we must all face and I think that getting an education is that challenge. I think the cave allegory can be tied to the subject of ideology and race in many ways. When thinking about race and racism in america most people tend to shy away from the subject. They would rather not talk about it for many reasons. Going back to Coates book we can see that it highlights the inequalities and freedoms that African Americans face every day of their lives. It gives us that perspective from a person of color that we don’t have. To see what they see and feel what they feel. The cave to me relates to modern society and the majority of the population that do not see a problem with the way people of color are treated.

All they see and want to believe is that everyone has the same freedoms and everyone are all created equal. Much like the prisoners in they cave. They see what they know. They don’t know any better because again, it is all they have known, all they have grown up with and all they have seen. Coates sort of represents the enlightener in the allegory. He leads us, the reader, out of this shadow. He takes us out into the open and tells us the actual struggles not only he faces, but persons of color faces every day. The injustice and falsities of society. Coates tells us that if we can not look past this idea that all of us are born with the same freedoms and the same equality then we are all doomed. He goes on to say that we were built as a country on freedom, equality, and opportunity for everyone.

On the “American Dream”. When in reality we were built on the exploitation and oppression of African americans and people of color. And that the prosperity of this country is tied to the exploitation of blacks in america. This takes us back to the comparison of the real world outside of the cave being our enlightenment. Our true understanding of the realities African Americans face in their day to day lives. Yet we do not want to see it. If that were the case there would be no oppression, no racism or hate crimes in this day in age. Sadly we as a society, as a country, don’t want to see “the dirty” side of things and want to brush said things under the rug, to forget that they are happening and move on with our lives. That is also how we can compare the allegory with Coates text. We want to run back and retreat to what we know. To take comfort in our ignorance. Learning the truth is frightening to us, yet we must persevere. ?Plato believed that we all have the ability to learn, but not everyone has the desire to learn; desire and resistance are important in education because you have to be willing to learn the truth although it will be hard to accept at times. We ?must move forward and accept the truth. That is how I connect these two texts.

When thinking about Plato’s cave, I can’t help but to turn to my very first year of teaching. I had no experience whatsoever and was way over my head. I thought I had everything under control, that teaching would be a breeze. Little did I know I was not what I had expected. The year came and went and all in all I had thought I did a decent job with my students. I then started to pursue an actual license and my eyes were opened to the actual mechanics behind teaching. Instead of finding projects for students to do I had no idea of the standards and what students were actually supposed to learn. I didn’t know anything about student development and how to determine where they were at cognitively. Looking back now I was the teacher my professors had talked about that did everything wrong. Yet I was in the dark. I can’t really blame myself because I was just doing what I was told, and what I knew. I was the prisoner in the cave. Watching the shadows dance across the wall. I was not taught how to properly plan a lesson or how to stand in front of a room full of students and lecture to them about the principles and elements of art. I Took what I remembered my own teachers had taught me or what I was given by my higher ups and ran with it. I was blind. I was in the dark doing what I knew.

Attending UD has been my “coming out of the cave.” It has been my own enlightening inits own way. I have seen the truth on how to actually teach a lesson and I have been shown how to do standards and lesson planning correctly. I will admit I was scared at first. Sitting in the classroom knowing fu and well I was the prisoner in the cave. The one doing only what she knew. I wanted to go back, I was ashamed. Yet I am still here. Still learning so I can guild my future students to where they need to be. When looking back I believe that Plato’s Allegory can play a major part in anyone’s life if they take the time to read it. You can compare it to just about anything really. Comparing it to education as a whole in my opinion is the most important one. We can be blinded by what we know and stay blinded and ignorant if we don’t step out of our cave. By doing so allows us to actually learn. To enlighten ourselves with worldly problems or even our own personal problems. Learning is the key to our future and must be willing to learn and accept the truth if we are ever to succeed in life or succeed as a society.

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Allegory of the Cave for Educators. (2021, Apr 14). Retrieved from