Western Educational Development: Socrates
The Socratic Method and the Academy
Ancient Athens has been studied and well documented as a critical point in the development of western civilization, being the birthplace of western philosophy and many great figures. This is arguably where modern western education was born, with significant figures and major contributions were developed. Notably, Socrates, sometimes referred to as the father of Western philosophy, was a renowned teacher; of course, he ironically often referred to himself as being the wisest man alive because he knew only that he knew nothing. It was his method of teaching that is so well known today it was named after him, the Socratic method. The Socratic method is based on Socrates’ style of teaching, emphasizing dialog between student and teacher through asking a series of simple questions. While not a traditional teaching method, it is effective in gaining truth and disputing arguments.
Another significant creation during this era was the development of what many consider the first University in the world, Plato’s Academy. Founded in 387 BC and operating until 86 BC, the academy was established as a private institution for philosophical training, the pursuit of science, political advice, and generally how to be a good citizen. Although the academy did not adhere to a doctrinal core, and teachings often varied between successors, the academy was attended by many great philosophers, such as Aristotle would later open his own school called the Lyceum. It is up for debate what ultimately ended the school, although one theory is the invasion of Sulla forces in 86 BC as the likely cause.