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The Ancient Greek Education Theology Religion Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Theology
Wordcount: 2665 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Ancient Greek Education and the Effect on the Western World. The education system today has been built on ideas and influences of the past. By building and expanding ideas, education has grown into an ever-evolving system. However, there are still strong influences from past cultures affecting the education system in the Western World. Today, the Ancient Greeks continue to influence the Western World with their legacy, especially in education; with the Athenian and Spartan systems being looked back to for guidance on today’s system and the teachers of Ancient Greece being used in teaching methods and evaluation. The Athenian school system is looked back on and influences today’s public school system. They were also the first to introduce a system of higher education, which is equivalent to today’s post-secondary institutions. Spartans had a much regimented school schedule and were primarily taught fighting and survival, paralleling today’s military school systems. Another comparison that can be drawn in the young age that the Spartans began training and were taught that the state is the prime concern; similar to Hitler’s youth groups in World War Two. The teachers in Ancient Greece are looked back to for their teaching methods and evaluations of teaching itself. Socrates, Aristotle, and the Sophists are the major influences of the Western World with their teaching methods and evaluations. The Western World’s education system has evolved and changed but still has the strong influences of the Athenian schooling system.

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Today’s education system has been affected by the legacy left behind by the Ancient Greeks. Especially with the Athenian education which provides examples of higher education and public school systems. There have been many ideas as to who first created higher education, such as Socrates, “but it was the Pythagoreans, it seems, who established a real school of higher education- the distant ancestor of our modern universities”(Flaceliere, 112). The higher education was influenced by the time period as it was the “sons of wealthier parents usually continued their children’s education to the age of 18 with specialist teachers in medicine, law, rhetoric or the increasingly popular courses given by the sophists”(Adkins, 254). Athenians had speciality teachers who focused on main areas of study for students who desired and could afford the higher education that was offered.

Similarly, we have higher education where students specialize in certain fields. Today these fields are taught at university or college and the Athenians were taught by philosophers or one of the travelling Sophists. Even these fields today are similar to the ones that were taught by the Athenians; one in particular being medicine. Another popular area of study for the Athenians and scholars today is law. Even though the Athenian education system has not been actively used for thousands of years, examples and influences are still drawn from it. The establishment of higher education in Ancient Greece provides evidence as to how the Athenian education system provides a strong influence over the Western World’s education. However, higher education was not the only influential aspect of the Athenian school system.

The modern Western World is privy to private school institutions where the parents provide the funds for their child’s education; paralleling the Athenians methods of education as well as the mandatory school attendance. Today, students are required by the Ontario government to attend school until the age of sixteen, similar to the Athenians as while there was “absence of a written stature, compulsory education was most certainly enforced by custom and tradition-which are just as binding as an instrument” (Flaceliere, 92). Attending school is compulsory for students in today’s school system, equivalent to the mandatory schooling in Ancient Athens.

Another part of Athenian education that corresponds with today’s schooling is the funding for education by parents and benefactors with “an extension of elementary education, with generous foundations set up in some cities to fund teachers” (Hornblower, Spawforth, 245). Today, private school systems are funded by parents and there are also generous supporters of the students, offering scholarships or bursaries, allowing students to attend school as did wealthy civilians in Athens. The Athenian education system has grown and evolved to include higher education and benefactors to help with the funding for schooling. Today, the education system has been influenced by the Athenians in terms of university. The Western World’s education may be changing; however, it still draws influence from the Athenians and other Ancient Greek city states.

The Spartan education system has also had a lasting legacy on the Western World as they have been influential for military schools of today and the Hitler Youth Groups that began during the World War Two period. Education in Sparta had the “study of letters was restricted to the bare minimum; for the rest, their education consisted exclusively in learning unquestioning obedience, superhuman endurance, and how to win at wrestling… their heads were close-shaved” (Plutarch, 1). The Spartans focused more intensely on military training and leaning that the state itself came before anything else. They were not concerned with reading and writing as the Athenians were, satisfied to focus intensely on military training, which is reflected in the impacts left on today’s education in the Western World.

Today, examples can be seen in different military institutions such as; “the service academies-the Coast Guard Academy, Air Force Academy, West Point and Annapolis- are shown to have been long involved with the task of finding the synthesis point between the Athenian and Spartan philosophies”(Lovell, 1). The Spartan education system differs greatly from the Athenian education system, focusing more on fighting and survival as the state was immersed in military culture. This could be relatively compared to today’s military schools and systems as they focus on survival and repetition of drills. Spartans were focused on survival and becoming the fiercest warriors in order to protect and provide pride for their state. Also, the students who come out of military school are taught that they are fighting for the state; similarly, the Spartans were taught that the state comes first. Many military schools today draw on the Spartan discipline by keeping strict rules and regulations that candidates must follow. Also, these schools emphasize that the students will be representing their country and must make the country proud.

Sparta was a state dominated city, meaning that the state was put above anything else and this belief pervaded into all aspects of Spartan life, including their education system, which influences modern day Western World education. At the age of seven a young Spartan male “was enrolled (rather as young Fascists or Nazis were a few years ago) in a sequence of pre-military organizations which covered his entire childhood and adolescence” (Flaceliere, 85). There are direct parallels between the young Spartans and the Hitler Youth Groups and military schools of today. Both are taught obedience, survival and that it is the state you must defend and put first, not anything or anyone else. The young Spartans and Germans had to learn to sacrifice their personal lives and well-beings in order to protect the state/country. Both had the common denominator of starting their candidates young with the goal being to have a military with a strong alliance to the state or country.

The main goal of the Spartan education system was to create a “well-drilled military machine composed of soldiers who were ‘obedient to the word of command, capable of enduring hardships and victories in battle” (Lin, 1). When the Spartan system pulled the young boys out of their homes, they became immersed in the state. The young boys were taught that the state is the most important aspect of their lives and that they were to represent the state. This can be compared to the Hitler Youth Groups of World War Two and military academies as they are taught that the state is their lives and they must represent accordingly. The Spartan education system used in Ancient Greece can be paralleled to today’s military academy with the use of regimented drills and tutelage of survival skills. Also, the fact that the male Spartan youth were taken at a young age and immersed in propaganda of the state is similar to Hitler Youth Groups. Even thousands of years after events, the education system of Ancient Greece continues to influence the education system of today.

The Western World not only draws influence from the different city states of Ancient Greece but the philosophers and sophists with their teaching styles and parallels to today’s university professors. A large influence on today’s teaching style is Socrates who taught with “conversation, debate, back-and-forth between teacher and student, a focus on student talk rather than teacher talk” (Schneider, 1), and “Socratic classrooms can be relaxed or tense, loud or quiet, large or small” (Schneider, 3). Socrates was a philosopher who taught young Greeks and his method of teaching is still taught today from kindergarten to post-secondary education. His philosophy when it came to teaching was to have the teacher ask questions to the students and have them answer instead of the student asking the teacher questions. Teaching in this way caused a new type of education to be developed, one where the students must find their own answers instead of relying on the teacher to provide all the answers for them.

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With his method “the ‘teacher’ or leader of the dialogue, asks probing questions in an effort to expose the values and beliefs which frame and support the thoughts and statements of the participants in the inquiry” (Stanford University, 1). Socrates forced the students to learn and understand by asking these questions and making them think of their own answers instead of being given answers. His method of teaching forced the students to become self-sufficient and be able to think critically and deeply. University professors and middle school teachers alike use Socrates method to expand the student’s learning as Socrates did in Ancient Greece. He was not the only philosopher to influence the teaching system in today’s Western World.

Aristotle was another Ancient Greek philosopher who influenced the Western World’s education system, by presenting a system in which teachers can be evaluated on their methods and effectiveness of teaching. His theory of “Phronesis (practical wisdom) has enjoyed a revival in recent years. In modern philosophy, it supplies a possible basis for postmodern criticism of technological society and its limitations” (Back, 1). This discusses Aristotle’s theory of practicality and how it can be applied to society and discussed in philosophy classes/ discussions. Aristotle believed that students needed to be taught practically, the only way for students to learn and more importantly understand; was to have them be taught in a useful, sensible way. He not only provided this popular teaching method but also evaluation methods for teacher’s that is used today.

He also discourses that teachers need to be evaluated and “under conditions of uncertainty and complex or convoluted situations, the professional must follow a process of “deliberation” in which he or she examines the appropriate means of achieving the goals in the specific parameters of the particular situation” (Back, 2). Teachers must act accordingly to the problems presented when teaching and when putting a potential educator in an uncertain situation, it is all about seeing how the professional reacts. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, taught and is now influencing teaching today. His methods of teaching are not necessarily used to teach, but rather to evaluate teachers and focus on the teacher’s ability instead. Despite the growing education system today, it can still be partial to the teachings of Ancient Greece. He is not the only influential person in Ancient Greek society, a large group of people, known as the sophists, also were significant in shaping the Western World’s education.

The sophists were a group of people who travelled around Ancient Greece and were paid to teach subjects that were not taught in the regular schooling in Greece. They are equivalent to today’s university and college professors as they also focus on specialized topics and are paid a salary. Sophists were important not only to the development of today’s education but also Ancient Greece’s as they “met a need for higher education and some amassed large fortunes. The word ‘sophist’ does not refer to a school of thought but a professional teacher” (Adkins, 254). The sophists are an ancient representation of modern day university professors. They taught specialized courses that required elementary schooling and extended knowledge to those who desired it. Also similar to today’s university professors, the sophists also charged a fee for their services though today it seen as a cultural normality; in Ancient Greece, citizens, philosophers especially looked down at the sophists and the money they demanded. The sophists introduced many innovative ideas to the Ancient Greece, not the least a salary for educating youths.

These sophists introduced to the Ancient Greeks a new extended type of schooling that went beyond the regular schooling and had students (or their parents) paying for education. Philosophers of Ancient Greece did not approve of the sophists as they did not believe in the payment of teachings. However they did provide more “under the general heading of ‘philosophy’ they taught all the subjects then available that had not been covered by the elementary school curriculum: geometry, physics, astronomy, medicine…” (Adkins, 254). Even though they were not well liked in Ancient Greece they introduced a new way of teaching that influenced today’s education system. University and college professors are the sophists of today; teaching specialized subjects and charging a fee. The Ancient Greeks provide guidance for the teachers of today’s education system. They offer different styles of teaching methods and also how to evaluate teachers that are used commonly today. Influenced by the Ancient Greeks, the Western World’s education continues to change and grow.

The Western World is influenced by the Ancient Greeks lasting legacy through the Athenian and Spartan education systems, and also by the teachers of Ancient Greece; influencing the teachers of today with the teaching styles and evaluation. The Athenian education system created higher education which parallels today’s post-secondary education system and also provides a comparison between the compulsory education and private schooling. Today’s military schools show influence from the Spartan education system. As well as the propaganda in Sparta that can be compared to the Hitler Youth Groups in Nazi Germany during World War Two. Ancient Greek philosophers provide methods of teaching styles and evaluation for teachers today, showing the influence and lasting legacy of the Ancient Greeks on the Western World.


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