Wealth is No Substitute for Education

Xenophon’s Memorabilia, IV.1.5

“Socrates approached men who thought too much of wealth and believed they didn’t need education–because they imagined that their wealth was sufficient for accomplishing whatever they wanted and grounds for being honored by men–and said that ‘anyone who believes that without learning he can distinguish between what is profitable and what is harmful is a fool; and anyone who thinks that without distinguishing these things he can acquire whatever he wants through wealth and be able to do what is necessary is a fool; and anyone who thinks that without being about to do what is necessary he can also live well and has prepared himself to live well or even sufficiently is a buffoon; and anyone who believes that with wealth and without knowing anything, he can seem to be good at all or, without seeming to be good, that he earn a good reputation is a buffoon.’ ”

Image result for Ancient Greek excessive wealth

τοὺς δ’ ἐπὶ πλούτῳ μέγα φρονοῦντας καὶ νομίζοντας οὐδὲν προσδεῖσθαι παιδείας, ἐξαρκέσειν δὲ σφίσι τὸν πλοῦτον οἰομένους πρὸς τὸ διαπράττεσθαί τε ὅ τι ἂν βούλωνται καὶ τιμᾶσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐφρένου λέγων ὅτι μῶρος μὲν εἴη, εἴ τις οἴεται μὴ μαθὼν τά τε ὠφέλιμα καὶ τὰ βλαβερὰ τῶν πραγμάτων διαγνώσεσθαι, μῶρος δ’, εἴ τις μὴ διαγιγνώσκων μὲν ταῦτα, διὰ δὲ τὸν πλοῦτον ὅ τι ἂν βούληται ποριζόμενος οἴεται δυνήσεσθαι τὰ συμφέροντα πράττειν, ἠλίθιος δ’, εἴ τις μὴ δυνάμενος τὰ συμφέροντα πράττειν εὖ τε πράττειν οἴεται καὶ τὰ πρὸς τὸν βίον αὐτῷ [ἢ] καλῶς ἢ ἱκανῶς παρεσκευάσθαι, ἠλίθιος δὲ καὶ εἴ τις οἴεται διὰ τὸν πλοῦτον, μηδὲν ἐπιστάμενος, δόξειν τι ἀγαθὸς εἶναι ἤ, μηδὲν ἀγαθὸς εἶναι δοκῶν, εὐδοκιμήσειν.

Socrates Was No Fool

“In another passage (Apol. 21a), Plato says that Chaerophon asked the Pythia if anyone was wiser than Socrates and that she answered that no one was. In this, as well, Xenophon says something different (Apol.14): “When Chaerophon once asked about me at Delphi, Apollo answered that no one of the present men was more just or wise.”

How is it sensible or persuasive that Socrates, who agreed that he knew nothing, was declared the wisest of all men by the god who knows everything? If this is wisdom, knowing nothing, then knowing everything is foolishness. What need was there for Chaerophon to ask the god about Socrates? It is because itwas right to Believe Socrates when he said about himself that he was not wise. “For the man who would ask such things of a god is a fool”.

Is this the face of a fool?
Is this the face of a fool?

κἀν ἄλλοις δ’ ὁ Πλάτων φησὶ (apol. p. 21 a) Χαιρεφῶντα ἐρωτῆσαι τὴν Πυθίαν εἴ τις εἴη Σωκράτους σοφώτερος· καὶ τὴν ἀνελεῖν μηδένα. κἀν τούτοις δὲ μὴ συμφωνῶν Ξενοφῶν φησι (apol. 14)· ‘Χαιρεφῶντος γάρ ποτε ἐπερωτήσαντος ἐν Δελφοῖς ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ, ἀνεῖλεν ὁ ᾿Απόλλων <πολλῶν> παρόντων μηδένα εἶναι ἀνθρώπων ἐμοῦ μήτε δικαιότερον μήτε σωφρονέστερον.’ πῶς οὖν εὔλογον ἢ πιθανὸν Σωκράτη τὸν ὁμολογοῦντα μηδὲν ἐπίστασθαι σοφώτατον ἁπάντων ὑπὸ τοῦ πάντα ἐπισταμένου θεοῦ ἀναρρηθῆναι; εἰ γὰρ τοῦτό ἐστι σοφία, τὸ μηδὲν εἰδέναι, τὸ πάντα εἰδέναι φαυλότης ἂν εἴη. τίς δ’ ἦν χρεία τῷ Χαιρεφῶντι παρενοχλεῖν τὸν θεὸν περὶ Σωκράτους πυνθανόμενον; αὐτὸς γὰρ ἦν ἀξιόπιστος ὑπὲρ αὑτοῦ λέγων ὡς οὔκ ἐστι σοφός. ‘βλὰξ γάρ τις ἦν τοιαῦτ’ ἐρωτῶν τὸν θεόν,’

 

Plato Apology 21d 6-7

 

“I think that I am wiser by this very small bit: I don’t pretend to know what I don’t know.”

ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι.

 

The full text.

Socrates 1.5-7: This Philosopher is Ready to Die.

“Do you really find it shocking if it seems better to the god that I die now? Don’t you know that before today I would never agree that any man has lived better than I have? This is the greatest pleasure, to know that my entire life has been lived righteously and justly. For this reason I have regarded myself well and I have found that those who know me feel the same way. Now, if this age were to proceed, I know that I would have to pay the price of old age: that my vision would be worse, my hearing weaker and I would be poor at learning and, worse, more forgetful of the things I have learned. If I sense myself becoming worse and I fault myself for it, how would I be able to live well? Perhaps, as an act of kindness, the god is granting that I end my life not just at the right age, but also in the easiest manner.”

῏Η θαυμαστὸν νομίζεις εἰ καὶ τῷ θεῷ δοκεῖ ἐμὲ βέλτιον εἶναι ἤδη τελευτᾶν; οὐκ οἶσθα ὅτι μέχρι μὲν τοῦδε οὐδενὶ ἀνθρώπων ὑφείμην βέλτιον ἐμοῦ βεβιωκέναι; ὅπερ γὰρ ἥδιστόν ἐστιν, ᾔδειν ὁσίως μοι καὶ δικαίως ἅπαντα τὸν βίον βεβιωμένον• ὥστε ἰσχυρῶς ἀγάμενος ἐμαυτὸν ταὐτὰ ηὕρισκον καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὶ συγγιγνομένους γιγνώσκοντας περὶ ἐμοῦ. νῦν δὲ εἰ ἔτι προβήσεται ἡ ἡλικία, οἶδ’ ὅτι ἀνάγκη ἔσται τὰ τοῦ γήρως ἐπιτελεῖσθαι καὶ ὁρᾶν τε χεῖρον καὶ ἀκούειν ἧττον καὶ δυσμαθέστερον εἶναι καὶ ὧν ἔμαθον ἐπιλησμονέστερον. ἂν δὲ αἰσθάνωμαι χείρων γιγνόμενος καὶ καταμέμφωμαι ἐμαυτόν, πῶς ἄν, εἰπεῖν, ἐγὼ ἔτι ἂν ἡδέως βιοτεύοιμι; ἴσως δέ τοι, φάναι αὐτόν, καὶ ὁ θεὸς δι’ εὐμένειαν προξενεῖ μοι οὐ μόνον τὸ ἐν καιρῷ τῆς ἡλικίας καταλῦσαι τὸν βίον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ᾗ ῥᾷστα.

The Real Profit of Wisdom with Friends

From Xenophon’s Memorobilia 1.6.13

In this passage Socrates argues against the sophists’ practice of taking money to teach about wisdom. In modern terms, Socrates might be seen as arguing against the commodification of our everyday relationships and exchanges. One can only imagine his responses to the notion of the ‘sharing economy’.

“Socrates responded to these things, “Antiphon, we share the belief that there is both a noble and a shameful way to share beauty and wisdom. For if someone offers beauty to anyone who wants it for money, people call him a prostitute. But if someone makes someone he knows who is a good and noble lover into a friend, we consider it prudent. It is the same way with wisdom: people call men who sell it to anyone who wishes for money a sophist [just like prostitutes] but whoever makes a friend of anyone he knows as capable and teaches him whatever good he can, we think that he has accomplished the duties of a good and noble citizen.

This, then, is how I proceed myself, Antiphon, just as some might get excited about a good horse, or a dog or a bird, I am so much more eager for good friends. And, if I know anything good, I teach it and I suggest others to them from whom I think they might gain some benefit concerning virtue. I also work through the treasures left by the wise men of old—those they have left in writing their books—opening them with my friends and picking out whatever good we discover.  We consider this a great profit, if we become mutual friends* in this way.”

Socrates

ὁ δὲ Σωκράτης πρὸς ταῦτα εἶπεν· ῏Ω ᾿Αντιφῶν, παρ’ ἡμῖν νομίζεται τὴν ὥραν καὶ τὴν σοφίαν ὁμοίως μὲν καλόν, ὁμοίως δὲ αἰσχρὸν διατίθεσθαι εἶναι. τήν τε  γὰρ ὥραν ἐὰν μέν τις ἀργυρίου πωλῇ τῷ βουλομένῳ, πόρνον αὐτὸν ἀποκαλοῦσιν, ἐὰν δέ τις, ὃν ἂν γνῷ καλόν τε κἀγαθὸν ἐραστὴν ὄντα, τοῦτον φίλον ἑαυτῷ ποιῆται, σώφρονα νομίζομεν· καὶ τὴν σοφίαν ὡσαύτως τοὺς μὲν ἀργυρίου τῷ

βουλομένῳ πωλοῦντας σοφιστὰς [ὥσπερ πόρνους] ἀποκαλοῦσιν, ὅστις δὲ ὃν ἂν γνῷ εὐφυᾶ ὄντα διδάσκων ὅ τι ἂν ἔχῃ ἀγαθὸν φίλον ποιεῖται, τοῦτον νομίζομεν, ἃ τῷ καλῷ κἀγαθῷ πολίτῃ προσήκει, ταῦτα ποιεῖν. ἐγὼ δ’ οὖν καὶ αὐτός, ὦ ᾿Αντιφῶν, ὥσπερ ἄλλος τις ἢ ἵππῳ ἀγαθῷ ἢ κυνὶ ἢ ὄρνιθι ἥδεται, οὕτω καὶ ἔτι μᾶλλον ἥδομαι φίλοις ἀγαθοῖς, καὶ ἐάν τι ἔχω ἀγαθόν, διδάσκω, καὶ ἄλλοις συνίστημι παρ’ ὧν ἂν ἡγῶμαι ὠφελήσεσθαί τι αὐτοὺς εἰς ἀρετήν· καὶ τοὺς θησαυροὺς τῶν πάλαι σοφῶν ἀνδρῶν, οὓς ἐκεῖνοι κατέλιπον ἐν βιβλίοις γράψαντες, ἀνελίττων κοινῇ σὺν τοῖς φίλοις διέρχομαι, καὶ ἄν τι ὁρῶμεν ἀγαθὸν ἐκλεγόμεθα· καὶ μέγα νομίζομεν κέρδος, ἐὰν ἀλλήλοις φίλοι* γιγνώμεθα.

 

* φίλοι: has a manuscript variant of ὠφέλιμοι. So the phrase could be “if we are/become beneficial to each other.”

“Only a Fool Would Ask the God…” Plato and Xenophon on Socrates (According to Athenaeus)

In another passage (Apol. 21a), Plato says that Chaerophon asked the Pythia if anyone was wiser than Socrates and that she answered that no one was. In this, as well, Xenophon says something different (Apol.14): “When Chaerophon once asked about me at Delphi, Apollo answered that no one of the present men was more just or wise.”

How is it sensible or persuasive that Socrates, who agreed that he knew nothing, was declared the wisest of all men by the god who knows everything? If this is wisdom, knowing nothing, then knowing everything is foolishness. What need was there for Chaerophon to ask the god about Socrates? It is because itwas right to Believe Socrates when he said about himself that he was not wise. “For the man who would ask such things of a god is a fool”.

Is this the face of a fool?
Is this the face of a fool?

κἀν ἄλλοις δ’ ὁ Πλάτων φησὶ (apol. p. 21 a) Χαιρεφῶντα ἐρωτῆσαι τὴν Πυθίαν εἴ τις εἴη Σωκράτους σοφώτερος· καὶ τὴν ἀνελεῖν μηδένα. κἀν τούτοις δὲ μὴ συμφωνῶν Ξενοφῶν φησι (apol. 14)· ‘Χαιρεφῶντος γάρ ποτε ἐπερωτήσαντος ἐν Δελφοῖς ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ, ἀνεῖλεν ὁ ᾿Απόλλων <πολλῶν> παρόντων μηδένα εἶναι ἀνθρώπων ἐμοῦ μήτε δικαιότερον μήτε σωφρονέστερον.’ πῶς οὖν εὔλογον ἢ πιθανὸν Σωκράτη τὸν ὁμολογοῦντα μηδὲν ἐπίστασθαι σοφώτατον ἁπάντων ὑπὸ τοῦ πάντα ἐπισταμένου θεοῦ ἀναρρηθῆναι; εἰ γὰρ τοῦτό ἐστι σοφία, τὸ μηδὲν εἰδέναι, τὸ πάντα εἰδέναι φαυλότης ἂν εἴη. τίς δ’ ἦν χρεία τῷ Χαιρεφῶντι παρενοχλεῖν τὸν θεὸν περὶ Σωκράτους πυνθανόμενον; αὐτὸς γὰρ ἦν ἀξιόπιστος ὑπὲρ αὑτοῦ λέγων ὡς οὔκ ἐστι σοφός. ‘βλὰξ γάρ τις ἦν τοιαῦτ’ ἐρωτῶν τὸν θεόν,’

Didn’t Get What You Want For Christmas? Talk to Xenophon

 

From Xenophon’s Memorabilia 1.6.10

“You appear to think that happiness comes from delicacy and abundance. But I think that wanting nothing is godlike,  that wanting as little as possible is next-best, that the divine is the highest goal and next-best the closest thing.”

[10] ἔοικας, ὦ Ἀντιφῶν, τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν οἰομένῳ τρυφὴν καὶ πολυτέλειαν εἶναι: ἐγὼ δὲ νομίζω τὸ μὲν μηδενὸς δεῖσθαι θεῖον εἶναι, τὸ δ᾽ ὡς ἐλαχίστων ἐγγυτάτω τοῦ θείου, καὶ τὸ μὲν θεῖον κράτιστον, τὸ δ᾽ ἐγγυτάτω τοῦ θείου ἐγγυτάτω τοῦ κρατίστου.

 The full text.

Teaching Leadership In/With Ancient Greece and Rome–Looking for Comment and Collaboration

“Men rise up against no one more readily than those they believe are trying to rule them. When we reflected on these facts, we began to conclude that for a human, because of his nature, it is easier to rule all the other animals than [to rule] other people.”

ἄνθρωποι δὲ ἐπ’ οὐδένας μᾶλλον συνίστανται ἢ ἐπὶ τούτους οὓς ἂν αἴσθωνται ἄρχειν αὑτῶν ἐπιχειροῦντας. ὅτε μὲν δὴ ταῦτα ἐνεθυμούμεθα, οὕτως ἐγιγνώσκομεν περὶ αὐτῶν, ὡς ἀνθρώπῳ πεφυκότι πάντων τῶν ἄλλων ῥᾷον εἴη ζῴων ἢ ἀνθρώπων ἄρχειν

-Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1.3

Who Leads the Collective Charge?
Who Leads the Collective Charge?

A year ago, I participated in teaching a course using texts from the ancient world to think about leadership with a former student (Eli Embleton) who had developed a syllabus on the topic as part of his senior thesis before starting a MBA program. The course went well, so we decided to try to write it up in article form (it is coming out this Spring in The Classical Journal, but a draft is available online).

Along the way, we were inspired in part by the work of Norman Sandridge on Xenophon and Leadership.  Norman has been running some pretty amazing courses on Leadership in the Ancient World for some time at Howard University. Near the end of running the course, we got in touch with Norman and, before we knew it, our common interest had become a common cause—developing ideas about teaching leadership in and through the ancient world further.

We are running a round table discussion at this year’s SCS/AIA annual meeting in San Francisco with the following goals:

This discussion will focus on the development of materials and multiform syllabi on leadership in the ancient world, a course similar in scope to introductory courses in myth, etymology, or sex and gender. Participants would provide perspectives on all aspects of syllabus-creation, including: pitching the course to students, departments, and administrators; guiding questions and subjects; effective assignments and assessments; and curricula-integration. Though focused on course-creation, the discussion may also address how the humanities already trains leaders and how we can do this more effectively. We hope to use this opportunity to develop a network of collaborators for future projects.

We are also running a collaborative course on Leadership in the Ancient World through Synoikisis in the Fall of 2016. We are excited to hear more ideas and concerns about developing and offering similar courses; we are even more psyched to find people who want to help design and create material for the cooperative Synoikisis course.

So, check out the article on the course, take a glance at Norman’s syllabus, and consider dropping in during the discussion in San Francisco or asking to hear more about the course next fall.

Plato, Xenophon, Lucretius and Montaigne: Learning How to Die

In his version of the trial of Socrates, Xenophon makes his teacher consider death (Xenophon, Apology 6.1-7.3):

“And if my age proceeds along still more, I know that old age’s traits will necessarily develop: worse vision, weaker hearing, slower learning and less memory for what I have learned already. And when I perceive I am deteriorating I will blame myself, wondering “How can I keep living with pleasure?” Perhaps, he said, the god is kindly on my side not just in ending my life at the perfect age but also in doing it so easily.”

νῦν δὲ εἰ ἔτι προβήσεται ἡ ἡλικία, οἶδ’ ὅτι ἀνάγκη ἔσται τὰ τοῦ γήρως ἐπιτελεῖσθαι καὶ ὁρᾶν τε χεῖρον καὶ ἀκούειν ἧττον καὶ δυσμαθέστερον εἶναι καὶ ὧν ἔμαθον ἐπιλησμονέστερον. ἂν δὲ αἰσθάνωμαι χείρων γιγνόμενος καὶ καταμέμφωμαι ἐμαυτόν, πῶς ἄν, εἰπεῖν, ἐγὼ ἔτι ἂν ἡδέως βιοτεύοιμι; ἴσως δέ τοι, φάναι αὐτόν, καὶ ὁ θεὸς δι’ εὐμένειαν προξενεῖ μοι οὐ μόνον τὸ ἐν καιρῷ τῆς ἡλικίας καταλῦσαι τὸν βίον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ᾗ ῥᾷστα.

So Xenophon’s Socrates muses on the end of his life and the serendipity of his death sentence. Plato’s Socrates talks about death too and not without some similarity. And, yes, I seem to have a weakness for death scenes.

Remember, that a philosopher’s true mission is to learn how to die:

Plato, Phaedo 67e

“In truth, those who practice philosophy correctly practice dying.”

τῷ ὄντι ἄρα, ἔφη, ὦ Σιμμία, οἱ ὀρθῶς φιλοσοφοῦντες ἀποθνῄσκειν μελετῶσι

There are, however, a few different ways to interpret this mission. Michel de Montaigne begins his essay “That to Philosophize Is to Learn How to Die” by quoting the same idea from Cicero: Tota enim philosophorum vita, ut ait idem, commentatio mortis est (Tusc. Disp. 30.74-31.71.5). Cicero, of course, does not footnote properly and attribute it to Plato (nor does Montaigne).

Montaigne offers interpretations of this idea:

“Cicero sayeth that to Philosophize is no other thing than for a man to prepare himself to death: which is the reason that study and contemplation doth in some sort withdraw our soul from us, and severally employ it from the body, which is a kind of apprentisage and resemblance of death. Or else it is that all the wisdom and discourse of the world doth in the end resolve upon this point: to teach us not to fear to die.  Truly either reason mocks us, or it only aimeth at our contentment, and in fine bends all her travel to make us live well and, as the holy Scripture sayeth, at our ease. All the opinions of the world conclude that pleasure is our end, howbeit they take diverse means unto and for it, else would men reject them at their first coming. For who would give ear unto him that for its end would establish our pain and disturbance?”

(Shakespeare’s Montaigne, Greenblatt and Platt 2014: 13) Other translations are available online. But for fun, here’s the French (Also available online from the Montaigne Project)

Ciceron dit que Philosopher ce n’est autre chose que s’aprester à la mort. C’est d’autant que l’estude et la contemplation retirent aucunement nostre ame hors de nous, et l’embesongnent à part du corps, qui est quelque aprentissage et ressemblance de la mort; ou bien, c’est que toute la sagesse et discours du monde se resoult en fin à ce point, de nous apprendre à ne craindre point à mourir. De vray, ou la raison se mocque, ou elle ne doit viser qu’à nostre contentement, et tout son travail tendre en somme à nous faire bien vivre, et à nostre aise, comme dict la Saincte Escriture. Toutes les opinions du monde en sont là, que le plaisir est nostre but, quoy qu’elles en prennent divers moyens; autrement on les chasseroit d’arrivée: car qui escouteroit celuy qui pour sa fin establiroit nostre peine et mesaise?

Near the end of this same essay, Montaigne gets hot and heavy with Lucretius–one might have expected the Epicurean strain from his opening line “ll the opinions of the world conclude that pleasure is our end”).

“Death is less to be feared than nothing, if there were anything less than nothing

–multem mortem minus ad nos esse putandum
Si minus esse potest quam quod nihil esse videmus 
(DRN 3.926-7)

Death is much less to us, we ought esteem,
If less may be, than what doth nothing seem

Nor alive, nor dead,it doth concern you nothing. Alive, because you are; dead, because you are no more.

Moreover, no man dies before his hour. The time you leave behind was no more yours than that which was before your birth and concerneth you no more.

Respice enim quam nil ad nos anteacta vetustas
Temporis aeterni fuerit (DRN
3.972-3)

For mark, how all antiquity fore-gone
of all time ere we were, to us was none

Wheresoever your life ended, there is it all. The profit of life consists not in the space, but rather in the use. Some man hath lived long that hath a short life. Follow it whilst you have time. It consists not in the number of years, but in your will, that you have lived long enough….”

(Shakespeare’s Montaigne, Greenblatt and Platt 2014: 31)

La mort est moins à craindre que rien, s’il y avoit quelque chose de moins,

multo mortem minus ad nos esse putandum
Si minus esse potest quam quod nihil esse videmus.

Elle ne vous concerne ny mort ny vif: vif, parce que vous estes: mort, par ce que vous n’estes plus. Nul ne meurt avant son heure. Ce que vous laissez de temps n’estoit non plus vostre que celuy qui s’est passé avant vostre naissance: et ne vous touche non plus,

Respice enim quam nil ad nos ante acta vetustas
Temporis aeterni fuerit.

Où que vostre vie finisse, elle y est toute. L’utilité du vivre n’est pas en l’espace, elle est en l’usage: tel a vescu long temps, qui a peu vescu: attendez vous y pendant que vous y estes. Il gist en vostre volonté, non au nombre des ans, que vous ayez assez vescu.

Happy, Happy Saturday. May it be more than enough.

Xenophon, Memorabilia 4.2.37: A Conversation on the Rich and Poor

Socrates: “What are poor people and rich people like?”

Euthydemos: “I think that the former, poor men, don’t have enough to spend on what they need while the latter, rich people, have more than enough.”

Socrates: “And you’ve learned then that there are some who have very little but find it not only sufficient but make more out of it, while there are some for whom even very much is never enough?”

Euthydemos: “Yes, by Zeus, you have reminded me correctly: I know some tyrants too who are compelled by want to commit injustice just as if they had nothing.”

Ποίους δὲ πένητας καὶ ποίους πλουσίους καλεῖς; Τοὺς μέν, οἶμαι, μὴ ἱκανὰ ἔχοντας εἰς ἃ δεῖ τελεῖν πένητας, τοὺς δὲ πλείω τῶν ἱκανῶν πλουσίους. Καταμεμάθηκας οὖν ὅτι ἐνίοις μὲν πάνυ ὀλίγα ἔχουσιν οὐ μόνον ἀρκεῖ ταῦτα, ἀλλὰ καὶ περιποιοῦνται ἀπ’ αὐτῶν, ἐνίοις δὲ πάνυ πολλὰ οὐχ ἱκανά ἐστι;

Καὶ νὴ Δί’, ἔφη ὁ Εὐθύδημος, ὀρθῶς γάρ με ἀναμιμνῄσκεις, οἶδα [γὰρ] καὶ τυράννους τινάς, οἳ δι’ ἔνδειαν ὥσπερ οἱ ἀπορώτατοι ἀναγκάζονται ἀδικεῖν.

Xenophon, Oeconomicus 11.3-12.1

“First, Socrates, you can’t make lushes pay attention: drinking makes them heedless of everything that needs doing.”

Πρῶτον μέν, ἔφη, ὦ Σώκρατες, τοὺς οἴνου ἀκρατεῖς οὐκ ἂν δύναιο ἐπιμελεῖς ποιῆσαι· τὸ γὰρ μεθύειν λήθην ἐμποιεῖ πάντων τῶν πράττειν δεομένων.

Upon Entering A Classroom: Unsolicited Reflections on Teaching

[This is a revision of an earlier post]

Next week, I start my 18th semester of teaching at my institution. This also means I am well into my second decade of teaching. At the same time, my collaborator and co-conspirator Palaiophron is starting a new position as a Latin teacher in a local high school.

As is my custom, the coming semester fills me with excitement, anxiety and just a little bit of dread. But then again, I started on my teaching journey in the same way. So, before many of us throughout the country (and the world) prepare to return to classrooms, I need to review my thoughts about teaching. (In part to ready myself for an Ancient Greek classroom of over 35 students!).

We all know that technology, politics, and money are changing the way we think, talk and approach the classroom. In applications for positions and awards, the ‘statement of teaching philosophy’ is all the rage; but most of us who practice as teachers, I suspect, operate from a mixture of experience and precept, observation and reaction. Whatever happens outside, we know that teaching is about human beings learning from each other.

So, below, I have gathered my basic precepts, some classical topoi they resonate with, and some very basic explanations. This is unsolicited and probably unneeded, but I write it as much to remind myself as anything else.

“Men become good more from practice than nature.”
ἐκ μελέτης πλείους ἢ φύσεως ἀγαθοί (Critias, fr. 9)

Continue reading “Upon Entering A Classroom: Unsolicited Reflections on Teaching”