I forgot to write about yesterday’s class yesterday–I suppose I must have had too much on my mind.
At the point in the dialogue that we read yesterday, Socrates’s interlocutors break off the big-picture argument and demand that he expand on some of the particulars about his ideal city that he mentioned in passing. Among the big issues are shared women and children, the education of women, and conduct in war. In other words, this is a section that’s all kinds of fun to teach.
In 8:00 section yesteray we spent most of our time on the question of children, noting that in Plato’s city, a fair number of the children would be changelings, swapped among merchant and military families based on their innate abilities. Not surprisingly, the discussion quickly turned to the universe of Star wars and the education of Jedi from a young age. One especially sharp student said that if he caught wind that acting greedy would get him raised by a wealthy family, he’d start exhibiting the greed right away. “Problem solved,” I told him, “You’re not Jedi material. You’ll be transferred tomorrow.” The class enjoyed that.
In 9:30 section our longest discussion was on Plato’s division of natures according to abilities rather than gender. Some of my students started out the discussion asserting that women have a distinct nature that is not a result of cultural expectations or education, and since they were the most vocal element, I argued the other end, noting all the historical contingencies that have in fact determined what little girls are made of. (Had the room been full of people who denied gender difference entirely, I would have argued the other end–I think students should have to fight for their assertions.) By the end, one particularly honest student said, “I still have a feeling that women’s nature is different, but now we’ve negated all the reasons I had for saying so. But I still think it’s true.”
“Good!” I replied. “That means you might think on these things after the class period ends.”
The same student and some others stuck around for a few minutes after 9:30 class, and I encouraged them to continue to consider these things and to take some electives that engaged those questions. I have no doubt at this point that I’m teaching a bright group of students, and today I rose to my vocation, giving them something to wrap their gifted minds around and perhaps even encouraging some sustained thought. The honest student above also tried to apologize after class for getting “aggravated” in the discussion today.
My response? “That’s good. If ideas are really bad, they should aggravate you.”