The Fundamentals of Education

A Socratic Perspective on
the Cultivation of Humanity

by Max Maxwell and Melete

Page 12

The Relevance of Human Character
for the Design of Education Systems

The foundation of all successful education involves the cultivation of enthusiastic, motivated, and attentive human character. What is the worthy goal for academia in the design of education systems? Shall we seek to cultivate fearless and persistent thriving, in which people are always enthusiastic and determined to embrace a lifelong vision of improving themselves? With this standard, we improve education by harnessing the full energies of students through the improvement of their character and their capacity to embrace a vision of living an examined life. Do we want to continue to allow the current habits of the U.S. "Scarf and Barf" education system, which is obsessed with force feeding data to students then consistently reducing the developmental sensibilities of those students to the carefully measured patterns of regurgitation they spill out onto the testing floor? As this essay proceeds, I will focus on what is fundamental for the Socratic method and philosophy to help make education much more than the involuntary emesis of force fed information. The importance of human character for education reminds me of my favorite false Socrates quote, who's authorship is unknown,

"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel."[12]

Igniting a lifetime of persistent enthusiasm to develop ourselves is of the greatest importance to every human being and to the future of our species. People who can remain enthusiastic about thriving towards their aspirations no matter what will be happier in their failures than people who never fail because they do not have aspirations. The examined life calls us to question our being. This means testing ourselves without fear as we egarly seek to express the best of our understanding. It means learning more than the memorization of talk.


[12] This may be a variation of a line from Plutarch  or may be related to an introductory comment in Benjamin Jowett's translation of Plato's Republic. Nobody knows for sure.