A 58k text-only version is available for download. Apology Translated by Benjamin Jowett Socrates' Defense How you have felt, O men of Athens, at hearing the speeches of my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that their persuasive words almost made me forget who I was - such was the effect of them; and yet they have hardly spoken a word of truth. But many as their falsehoods were, there was one of them which quite amazed me; - I mean when they told you to be upon your guard, and not to let yourselves be deceived by the force of my eloquence. They ought to have been ashamed of saying this, because they were sure to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and displayed my deficiency; they certainly did appear to be most shameless in saying this, unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for then I do indeed admit that I am eloquent.
The Lost Tools of Learning Dorothy Sayers That I, whose experience of teaching is extremely limited, should presume to discuss education is a matter, surely, that calls for no apology.
It is a kind of behavior to which the present climate of opinion is wholly favorable. Bishops air their opinions about economics; A cause and effect essay should be written in a fashion, about metaphysics; inorganic chemists, about theology; the most irrelevant people are appointed to highly technical ministries; and plain, blunt men write to the papers to say that Epstein and Picasso do not know how to draw.
Up to a certain point, and provided the criticisms are made with a reasonable modesty, these activities are commendable. Too much specialization is not a good thing. There is also one excellent reason why the veriest amateur may feel entitled to have an opinion about education. For if we are not all professional teachers, we have all, at some time or another, been taught.
Even if we learnt nothing--perhaps in particular if we learnt nothing--our contribution to the discussion may have a potential value. However, it is in the highest degree improbable that the reforms I propose will ever be carried into effect. Neither the parents, nor the training colleges, nor the examination boards, nor the boards of governors, nor the ministries of education, would countenance them for a moment.
For they amount to this: Before you dismiss me with the appropriate phrase--reactionary, romantic, mediaevalist, laudator temporis acti praiser of times pastor whatever tag comes first to hand--I will ask you to consider one or two miscellaneous questions that hang about at the back, perhaps, of all our minds, and occasionally pop out to worry us.
When we think about the remarkably early age at which the young men went up to university in, let us say, Tudor times, and thereafter were held fit to assume responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs, are we altogether comfortable about that artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and adolescence into the years of physical maturity which is so marked in our own day?
To postpone the acceptance of responsibility to a late date brings with it a number of psychological complications which, while they may interest the psychiatrist, are scarcely beneficial either to the individual or to society. The stock argument in favor of postponing the school-leaving age and prolonging the period of education generally is there is now so much more to learn than there was in the Middle Ages.
This is partly true, but not wholly.
The modern boy and girl are certainly taught more subjects--but does that always mean that they actually know more? Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined?
Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and the radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area?
Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?
Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side?
Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?
Have you ever followed a discussion in the newspapers or elsewhere and noticed how frequently writers fail to define the terms they use? Or how often, if one man does define his terms, another will assume in his reply that he was using the terms in precisely the opposite sense to that in which he has already defined them?
Have you ever been faintly troubled by the amount of slipshod syntax going about? And, if so, are you troubled because it is inelegant or because it may lead to dangerous misunderstanding? Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt that is only to be expectedbut forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves?
Are you often bothered by coming across grown-up men and women who seem unable to distinguish between a book that is sound, scholarly, and properly documented, and one that is, to any trained eye, very conspicuously none of these things?
Or who cannot handle a library catalogue? Or who, when faced with a book of reference, betray a curious inability to extract from it the passages relevant to the particular question which interests them? Do you often come across people for whom, all their lives, a "subject" remains a "subject," divided by watertight bulkheads from all other "subjects," so that they experience very great difficulty in making an immediate mental connection between let us say, algebra and detective fiction, sewage disposal and the price of salmon--or, more generally, between such spheres of knowledge as philosophy and economics, or chemistry and art?
Are you occasionally perturbed by the things written by adult men and women for adult men and women to read? We find a well-known biologist writing in a weekly paper to the effect that: Here is a sentence from no less academic a source than a front- page article in the Times Literary Supplement:How to Write a Good Cause and Effect Essay: 10 Steps to Follow.
A cause and effect essay defines why things happen and what tends to happen next.
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July (This essay is derived from a talk at Oscon ) A few months ago I finished a new book, and in reviews I keep noticing words like "provocative'' and "controversial.''To say nothing of "idiotic.'' I didn't mean to make the book controversial.
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