More than 2000 years have passed since my principal instructor Socrates cautioned his students that the unexamined life is not worth living. Such a statement demonstrates a basic tenet of my own philosophy of education: education is a process in which the individual must routinely question the very roots of self-knowledge. The goal of such a process is the creation of a total individual. For the ancient Greeks, such an education was not confined to phenomenal knowledge alone. Instead, the total individual is an amalgam of physical, spiritual and intellectual excellence.
Integral to my philosophy of education is the notion that each student is a unique individual and must be treated with respect. Keeping to the Socratic idiom, students must not be taught this or that bit of knowledge. Rather, the student must be taught how to learn and how to think. Therefore, education is really little more than a process in which the student learns how to learn. Such a process is set in motion if the instructor treats the student as an extension of himself. In this way, the improvement of the student is necessarily the improvement of the instructor. This explains why I teach since I too am a student in search of self-improvement.
The relationship between student and instructor is grounded in mutual trust. The instructor ought not to engage the student for the sole purpose of imparting his knowledge. The instructor must be skillful in pulling knowledge from the student according to Socrates, the student has knowledge. The role of the instructor is to force the student to reveal that knowledge through a clever dialogue of question and answer. Such a dialogue is predicated on trust and mutual respect. If such a dialogue is not forthcoming, then the process of education may fall victim to the admonition of Cicero: the authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.
The ultimate purpose of education is to produce individuals who strive for excellence for themselves, their peers, and their community. The well-rounded individual, the total individual, is one in whom the higher ideals of life (read virtue or arete) have been instilled. In this way, students enter the rest of their lives with the valuable lesson that they can make a difference. In the final analysis, the student infused with the higher ideals of life will take those ideas into the larger community whereby the improvement of self is translated into the improvement of all.
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copyright � 2000 Steven Kreis