The Common Core of Being, Part Four

Tod Desmond and Boyce Brown

Part Four in a series of inquiries on “the philosophical foundations of ‘Common Core’ in Education.” Read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Green’s apparent reversal of Plato’s cave allegory can be explained in two ways. First, according to holographic string theory, the horizon of the cosmos only appears to be two-dimensional from our perspective on Earth; people living on a planet at what we perceive to be the cosmic horizon would perceive themselves to be in the center of the expanding universe. In other words, the cosmic horizon is not two-dimensional in any normal sense of that term. The second way to account for the apparent inversion of Plato’s cave allegory relates to near-death experiences (NDE).

People who clinically die but are then revived often recall their consciousness rising above their bodies, and then hurtling through space at an incredibly accelerated rate, as if toward a brilliant point of light at the end of a dark tunnel. They also frequently recall arriving at a point of no return, the edge of the cosmos, where they experience the past, present, and future of the whole universe simultaneously. From the perspective of the disembodied psyches who feel united with the ultimate horizon of the cosmos, it often appears as a paradise brimming with hyper-real forms. Eben recently published an account of his own NDE, in which he recounted an encounter with the horizon of the cosmos (2012, p.160). Similarly, Carl Jung recalled his own NDE after a heart attack in 1944 when he wrote:

For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in a little box. . .I had been so glad to shed it all, and now it had come about that I-along with everyone else-would again be hung up in a box by a thread. (1989, 292)

Notice how Jung specifically mentions that it appeared to him as if each cubic volume of space is a kind of illusion tethered to the cosmic horizon by a thread, which is very similar to holographic string theory. Jung’s account is furthermore very similar to the myth of Er at the end of the Republic, where Socrates tells the story of a soldier named Er who woke up on his own funeral pyre and recalled his NDE. During that experience, he saw how each soul’s karmic fate takes the form of “threads” (620e) woven into the cosmic horizon and each concentric hemisphere of space by the three singing sister-goddesses, the Fates, who represent past, present, and future. If we combine the cave allegory and the myth of Er we find that Plato’s cosmology is strikingly similar to the holographic string theory, the cutting edge of academic cosmology today.

The education system Socrates describes in the Republic focuses on children destined for leadership, the guardians and their auxiliaries. The aim of the education in this classic is for the elite to open an inner vision of the eternal forms, culminating with the idea of the good. In the future, we will fill out our transformational image of the future of public education in the context of Plato’s Republic by suggesting that the idea of the good can be equated with the omnicentric singularity, the horizon of the cosmos, and the cosmic threads of destiny that weave together the cinematic hologram of our universal dream.

Lee describes Plato’s ideal city (which is actually the feverish city) as an “aristocracy of talent” and “managerial meritocracy” (cite, 50). This seems to be the aim of Common Core, although children deemed to have the highest aptitudes in our society are to be trained, not to develop the physical and mental faculties required to behold the idea of the good, but rather to maintain the continued growth of an economic and political system that is environmentally unsustainable.

Theoretically, the same social technologies used to implement Common Core could be used to realize Plato’s vision of the common core of being. For example, Bloom discusses how philosophers used to favor the landed gentry because they had the time and money to seriously study art and ideas.

Only technology, with its attendant problems, makes universal education possible, and therefore opens the prospect of a different kind of relationship of philosophy to politics…The thinkers of the Enlightenment, as I have said, reproached all earlier philosophers for their powerlessness to help men and themselves. The Republic’s formula, that power and wisdom must coincide if evils are ever to cease in the cities, is the perfect expression of what the Enlighteners meant (Bloom, 1987, p. 284).

Were Socrates here today, he might say that those talented students whom the Common Core standards guide toward the highest rungs on the corporate ladder could be more prudently trained to turn the eyes of their souls toward the inner idea of the good. In fact, after explaining that the ultimate aim of the education system of the ideally just state is to train its top students to turn the eye of the soul inward, Socrates warns that if this innate talent is not utilized, it will turn to evil. Calling the inherent talent of the top students “prudence,” Socrates says,

It never loses its power, but according to the way it is turned, it becomes useful and helpful or, again, useless and harmful. Or haven’t you yet reflected about the men who are said to be vicious but wise, how shrewdly their petty soul sees and how sharply it distinguishes those things toward which it is turned, showing that it doesn’t have poor vision although it is compelled to serve vice; so that the sharper it sees, the more evil it accomplishes? (519a)

Is it plausible to suspect that the more “effectively” the Common Core program schools our students, the less prudence it instills in them? It could be argued that it would be better to have a less “effective” education system if the stated goal is what Dator describes as continued growth. Nevertheless, to follow Dator’s method, a best case scenario for the continued growth image of the future should be laid out in the context of Plato’s Republic. What about the collapse and disciplined scenarios?

Common Core promises a hybrid of two typologies of the future: continuation of the unsustainable practices enforced, through a disciplined society; a hybrid of timocracy and oligarchy, that collapses – ultimately – into tyranny.

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