Educating the “Good, Incorruptible, and Just"

Nietzsche has long been recognized for his confrontational position towards liberal political and educational institutions. He is arguably the greatest critic of liberalism to emerge from within the philosophy realm. Scholars have learned from him to feel disdain for sheer safety and material prosperity, and to see the danger of conformism lurking behind the apparent freedoms we are offered. From early stage in his life and career, he sides with the romantic belief that “the aim of all culture is to generate geniuses” and he looks for the life of a genius in the philosopher, in his case, Schopenhauer. Nietzsche advocated the need for philosopher-geniuses as rulers, as opposed to Plato’s beliefs that a society should be ruled by philosopher-kings (Shattuck, 1995). Nonetheless, a quick literature review suggests that Nietzsche has not received much attention in the realm of education.

From Plato to D.H. Lawrence, the topic of education has been the focus of much debate throughout the centuries. The question however persists amid educational circles, literary reviews, and at cocktail parties: are our schools ready to educate their students to live their lives as they should, based on values and moral ethics that point them to what Plato called the “good, incorruptible, and just”?
In The Republic, written more than two thousand years ago, Plato outlined a series of physical and intellectual practices that would warrant a form of society that was just and full of virtue, a society that was planned, with citizens who were educated from very early ages. For Socrates, only education could guarantee that children would one day become responsible (and just!) citizens, committed to the well being of the whole city (polis). In this process, Socrates emphasized the importance of educating a citizen with community values geared towards the city. By contrast, the lack of education would raise citizens that were only concerned about themselves and would, therefore, govern the city to fulfill their own interests. Socrates warns us against the decadency of the citizens of Athens, which was governed by corrupted individuals, due to lack of proper education.