THE EDUCATIONAL THEORIES OF PLATO AND ARISTOTLE: THEIR
RELEVANCE TO EDUCATIONAL POLICY AND PRACTICE IN AFRICA
Prof. A.A. Adeyinka
In propounding a philosophy of education are in educational policy and practice generally, the world today owes much to Plato and Aristotle. The ideas of these ancient scholars have provided the basis for the philosophy, policy and practice of education everywhere.
This paper summarises then educational ideas of Plato and Aristotle against historical background to the life of each philosopher. The paper ends with a discussion of the relevance of the educational ideas of these scholars to educational policy and practice in Africa today.
The world today owes much of its current educational, as- well as political thoughts to three major influences in world history, namely, the Greco-Roman influence, characteristic of the classical era; the .Renaissancecum-Reformation influence, which came to light during the closing years of the Middle Ages and the opening years of the modern period respectively and the Revolutionary influence which has often been closely associated with the French Revolution.
The educational theories of Plato and Aristotle belonged to the classical era.
Roman artists often depict Plato as pointing to the heaven and Aristotle as pointing to the earth. Metaphorically, this picture is the main difference between them. Plato was the idealist, the dreamer and the lover of myth! Where as.
Aristotle was a realist, a practical man variously referred to as 'the hard intellectualist’, 'a master of many sciences' and the 'Father of Biology'. These basic differences in their attitudes to life generally account for, the main
differences in their educational theories, as in their political philosophies generally indeed, any discussion of 'the educational theories of Plato and Aristotle must take account of the differences in their political thought because they discussed the subject of education only as a part of their wider political philosophy, education being regarded by both as a means of attaining the state's objectives.
This may explain why the two regarded education as the state's responsibility, because any control of educationary rival bodies may tend to disrupt the organic unity of the State. Students of history of political ideas would be well aware of the fact that the family life and upbringing of both Plato and Aristotle greatly influenced their subsequent career and writings. A brief historical background is therefore necessary and relevant to our discussion of the educational theories of these two Greek philosophers.
Plato, son of a wealthy Athenian couple, Ariston and Perictione, was born at Athens in 427 B.C., about three years after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War and just over a year after the death of' Pericles, the popular Athenian statesman and military commander who later became the leader of the Democratic Party of Athens. Plato was still 'a young boy, when his father died and it became incumbent on his step-father "Pyrilampes, a close friend and supporter of Pericles to bring him up. It was Pyrhampes who really brought Plato into contact with democratic ideas of Pericles, ideas which eventually had a profound influence on Plato's later works. Plato received the normal education of the Greek boy, learning under Socrates to read and write and study the poets. He later founded a famous school called the Academy, named after the grove of 'A cad emus around which the school was founded. Here Plato 'developed his literary skill and philosophical thinking to the full. At this time of war, the city state' was the largest political unit, so that when Plato died in 347 B.C. it was' 'still' possible for the Athenians to assemble in the market place and take major decisions on democratic basis. It is on the assumption that this political set-up will
continue for quite a long time if not for ever...
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