Division of Labor and Trigger-Happy Freshmen

We reached the end of this unit’s Plato reading today with one of the clearest articulations of dikaiosyne in the book.  I could tell that I was tired today, both from the late night at the circus Tuesday and the late night at church last night.  I was taking longer than usual to process questions, fumbling more than usual when I moved between topics, and generally acting tired.  Fortunately, the classes were both relatively well-prepared, and they kept the conversation going where I faltered.

I always get the impression (accurate or not) that some of the students are hoping that, if they just stay invisible long enough, I’ll call class off early.  I try to give ample chances to participate, but when class lags even for a moment in the closing fifteen minutes or so, I’ve got half a dozen reaching for their backpacks like Johnny Ringo just drew.  It’s funny that a recent editorial in the Red and Black gripes about teachers who fill up class sessions with lectures.  The joke is that all of us know that, in the absence of noise from the front, certain itchy individuals think the show’s over.  I realize that I’m not always at my entertaining best, but neither is my class, and I don’t go running off with fifteen minutes to go.

Crud.  This has devolved into a “kids these days” post.  I’ll have to update the categories.

At any rate, we did have good discussions in both classes irrespective of my fatigue and students’ itchy trigger fingers, and our main point of discussion in both sections was how communities decide who does what.  Plato seems to think that everyone has certain natural aptitudes and that the happiest community with the happiest people is that in which everyone does what she or he is best at.  As I’ve noted before, I can’t help but think that Paul used this kind of structure when he wrote about the various functions of Christians in Ephesians and Corinthians.  Obviously the content differs–sophia and agape are two very different organizing principles.  But nonetheless, I have to think that the abandonment of genealogy in favor of giftedness is a carryover.

I also offered my supplement to Plato (who does not spend much time at all talking about the workers, focusing some time on the auxilliary fighers and the most time on the guardians proper), a suggestion that Plato doesn’t likely think that there are people whose existence revolves around making shoes the way a career soldier’s does around the military life or an intellectual’s does on contemplation.  More likely, I suggested, Plato has in mind those people whose moneymaking jobs are simply ways to make a living, not ways of life.  I know full well that leisure time was far more limited in the ancient world than in the modern, but certainly among free workers there must have been a sense of town life, folk music, and other ways of being-together than work.  I really should take a gander at that possibility, for Plato does not.


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Filed under Kids These Days, Plato, teaching

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