"The Cave is Not That Bad"

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If you took a Philosophy 101 course in college, chances are that you read Plato's "Allegory of the Cave."

The allegory—which comes from a passage of The Republic—tells of some men who had been chained in a cave their entire lives up to that point. They are chained in such a way that they can only look forward, and all that they see are shadows of images that are constantly projected on the wall in front of them.

But one day, one of the men finds himself free of the chains and exits the cave into the light. He is at first afraid, and greatly troubled by what he sees. But eventually he comes to realize the superiority of the world outside, and decides to return to the cave to free his former companions so that they can join him in this new world.

As you might guess, however, his companions want to stay put. Why? Because they are afraid of the unknown. They have grown comfortable with their shadows. They have a routine, and they don't want to deviate from it.  

One of the morals of the story: it is difficult to call people away from mediocrity when the mediocre is all they have ever known. They will tell you, "The cave is not that bad."

Does the "Allegory of the Cave" offer a caution for us when it comes to America's public education system? According to a national study, 77% of parents say that they are satisfied with their local schools. But do the statistics justify such optimism?

  • Currently, American students perform below average compared to their international peers.
  • Anywhere from 28-40% of incoming freshmen need to take at least one remedial class in college.
  • Only 25% of high school students are proficient in writing.

Should we be satisfied with this?!?

As the saying goes, "Familiarity breeds contempt." But familiarity can also breed an unwarranted contentment.

Have we grown too used to the failures of today's education system? Are we too content with the cave?

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