Socrates, Our Teacher

My thoughts on Socrates, the great teacher of teachers, appear in the lead article of this month’s ToolKit, Cana Academy’s monthly magazine for humanities teachers. Here is a sample from the article:

Socrates, his way of teaching, and his reasons for teaching are at the heart of what we mean by liberal education. In its etymology, liberal means free, as a man is free who is independent and independent-minded enough to think on his own. Socrates wanted each person he encountered to have that kind of freedom. The stakes of freedom could not have been higher. According to Socrates, education and political justice are directly related to each other. Get the first right, and the second more likely follows. On the other side of the coin, a poorly educated people will most likely foment disorder. That was a cautionary tale for ancient Athens; it remains so for us. You and I could hardly accept a calling with greater importance.

Socrates personally experienced the impact of his culture’s moral and spiritual disorder. At the age of seventy, he was unjustly tried, sentenced and put to death by the same city he had faithfully served. Remarkably, when he had a chance to slip away from jail and execution, he declined it, remaining forever true to Athens, forever faithful to his friends. His last act as a teacher and a friend was to model how a just man faces death and, in this case, an unjust execution.  

Socrates left this world having attained no worldly wealth or power. Yet, his life was adorned with love: his love for wisdom, for the work of teaching, and for his city and friends. His love was exceptional. It changed forever the way we understand what it means to teach and to learn.

Other articles in the May issue cover these topics:

  • How to interpret Frost’s The Road Not Taken

  • How to ask good questions of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer

  • Top books for teaching high school history

  • Strategies for reading with your children

  • How to use tests well

If you enjoyed this sneak preview of ToolKit, sign up here for a paid membership and receive access to all the issues.

Andrew J. Zwerneman serves as president of Cana Academy

Header image by Wikimedia Commons user Dencey, cropped by Helen DeCelles-Zwerneman and used under CC BY-SA 2.0.