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To everyone who joined these forums at some point, and got discouraged by the negativity and left after a while (or even got literally scared off): I'm sorry.

I wasn't good enough at encouraging people to be kinder, and removing people who refuse to be kind. Encouraging people is hard, and removing people creates conflict, and I hate conflict... so that's why I wasn't better at it.

I was a very, very sensitive teen. The atmosphere of this forum as it is now, if it had existed in 1996, would probably have upset me far more than it would have helped.

I can handle quite a lot of negativity and even abuse now, but that isn't the point. I want to help people. I want to help the people who need it the most, and I want to help people like the 1996 version of me.

I'm still figuring out the best way to do that, but as it is now, these forums are doing more harm than good, and I can't keep running them.

Thank you to the few people who have tried to understand my point of view so far. I really, really appreciate you guys. You are beautiful people.

Everyone else: If after everything I've said so far, you still don't understand my motivations, I think it's unlikely that you will. We're just too different. Maybe someday in the future it might make sense, but until then, there's no point in arguing about it. I don't have the time or the energy for arguing anymore. I will focus my time and energy on people who support me, and those who need help.

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School and the Allegory of the Cave
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Ky Offline
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Post: #1
School and the Allegory of the Cave

No doubt many of you have heard of Plato's Cave. If not, I can explain based on a simple explanation that I've carved together from prior knowledge (and my philosophy class).

Ancient Greek philosopher Plato was Socrates' student and Aristotle's teacher. Unlike Socrates, he wrote down his ponderings of life, the universe, and everything. One of his works was The Republic, the political theories in which are often regarded as some of the most intellectual of all time. It wasn't all war and governments, though; in the seventh book of his narrative (or what we'd call a chapter), he developed the Allegory of the Cave.

It is a hypothetical scenario in which people perceive illusions as reality. In this scenario, a few prisoners have been held, immobilized, in a cave since birth. They cannot stand up and walk around, nor can they turn their head; they can only see the wall in front of them, and their arms (if they raise them). Unbeknownst to them, there is a whole world behind and above them - behind these prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and prisoners is a huge walkway leading to the surface that their captors often pass by, holding signs above their heads in a manner that the prisoners can see the shadows of the signs on the wall.

The prisoners, then, assume the shadows on the wall are real things, and due to the echoes from the wall, they assume the sounds created by the men behind them come from the shadows. They have no idea that their captors are behind them, or a fire, or signs, or the exit - indeed, they do not even realize there is a world beyond the cave or even their perception.

What passes for wisdom with them, then, is their capacity to tell which shadow would come next. Whomever could tell this would be deemed as incredibly clever, for the entire extent of their reality greatly depends on the shadows in front of them.

Does this sound at all familiar so far?

Anyway, what if one of the prisoners was aided in an escape? Suppose a man removed his bonds and told him to stand and look around. With great difficulty, the prisoner would observe his surroundings. Most in his position would inevitably turn their gaze back to the shadows, back to the reality they are familiar with, but let's say this prisoner has the mental capacity to move forward and learn of his newfound surroundings.

The man would then implore the former prisoner to observe the signs used to create the shadows. The former prisoner would not know what they are at first; the shadows look more real to him. After a while, he would understand the purpose of these signs, and the man would compel him to look upon the fire against which the signs created the shadows.

Upon seeing the glow of the fire, the former prisoner would shield his eyes as he is more accustomed to the dark. Again, most in his situation would reject the new reality and happily settle back into the old one, away from the unfamiliar pain. Instead, this prisoner grows accustomed to the illumination of the fire, and spots the cave's exit. The man leads him up, but upon reaching the top the former prisoner can move no farther. The light of the sun, much brighter than that of the fire, blinds him.

Yes, most in his position would complain that the sun is horrible and insist that the darkness is preferable - and note that they can no longer see any remnants of their former reality and can't make out much of their new reality due to their painful blindness. This former prisoner, not like those others, bites his lip and attempts to become acclimated to the outside world and to learn more of his new surroundings until he can finally see enough to gaze at the sun itself.

The sun, the last new object for him to look upon, would appear to him to be the master of all of the other objects, and the center point of reality. (In a vague manner of speaking, this is almost literally true.) Upon reaching a point of great familiarity with his new, greater reality, this former prisoner would come to pity the prisoners he left behind. Surely his ability to "see the light" is preferable to being "in the dark", and with that sureness he returns to the cave to rescue the other prisoners.

But these other prisoners are not like him. They would reject every opportunity to explore a new reality because they are so invested in their own. Why, the only way they would even be tempted to observe a greater world was if the state of affairs in their own lesser world were more painful than the process of viewing the greater one!

So the former prisoner enters the cave, and he cannot see very well because of the darkness. He's lucky he can see at all, but there is a fire down there and so he is able to safely navigate his way down to the other prisoners. He speaks of the new, bigger reality he found to them, and in fear of this new reality, the other prisoners deem him insane and ask him to describe the shadows in front of him. Because of the darkness, he cannot see them very well, and for that the other prisoners ridicule him. They would rationalize that even if the outside world existed, it certainly wouldn't be worth visiting - after all, the escaped prisoner is a result of the corrupting effects of what they perceive as a false reality. The former prisoner fails to appeal to the nonexistent reason of the other prisoners, and so leaves them to their blissful folly in the shadows, where their world is dictated by the men who move the signs around.

There, now wasn't that a good story?

Plato assumed that our material world was a false reality, and that a vast world of true knowledge awaited outside of our perception, based on this allegory. While I won't pretend to know if that's true, I do see some metaphors as they apply to compulsory education.

The cave represents the school system in all of its dreary, gloomy splendor. The prisoners are the child prisoners of this system, not merely literally but also mentally enslaved to the shadows of the mere representations (signs) of fact the teachers are paid to hold and "teach". The fire represents only partial truth, the kind of truth that has huge chunks of it harshly disproved when held up to the reality outside of school.

The escaped prisoner is me. Or you, depending on what compelled you to read this far and come as far as you have in life. I was, in a sense, rescued by various sources (including School Survival). The outside reality represents life outside of school and the physical and mental indoctrination of it, with the sun being the truth, not only of the school system but of everything. Due to my exposure of it, I was not able to see school the same way again and have been ridiculed by many for it.

The story of how I escaped the cave began in February of 2012. Overwhelmed by the constant struggle of schoolwork, annoyed with the ineffectiveness of the system I was in, and frustrated with my inability to fit in, with a burst of metaphorical strength I was free from the entanglement of the bonds that had once conditioned me to embrace the system. With help from various guides across the Internet, I was taken on a tour of the failures of the parts of the cave I couldn't see, and I saw a light (that of the fire): School is prison, and I have to get out somehow.

With effort I attempted to free many prisoners from their chains, but of all of the people I tried desperately to free only a few would follow me, due to their assurance that the pain of public schools was worth learning ways to escape. Defeated, I was led by people who already knew of the greater reality up into it.

I have seen the amazing results of the alternatives to public schooling. I have predicted the great effects of abolishing compulsory education. I have acquired knowledge greater than even the most complex shadow. But only recently, 18 months after I escaped, have I fully seen the light of the sun, and it is this: I can't save everyone. Even if voluntary education is introduced, there will always be those who have no viable options but public schools and the options they learned after attending them, and couldn't accept the thought of leaving their mind-controlled mentality behind. A world without stupid (or, impressionable might be a better world) people isn't a possibility at this point in time - there is no utopia, the only bright future is a somewhat bittersweet one, and the hope of human freedom is bound to face great challenges.

Even in light of this pessimistic truth, I won't back down or give up. There are still people out there I can convince to be free of their chains, for the pain of enduring our school system the way it is now is greater than the harshness of the realization that it doesn't work for many people. Civil rights marches on, and soon the world will be more aware that there is a root cause to much of the angst children and teens have, and that it can be eliminated with time.

Have you escaped from any other metaphorical caves? Leave a comment, and depending on where you're viewing this from, do the positive feedback stuff. Peace out.

Public Service Announcement: First world problems are still problems.
(This post was last modified: 10-06-2016 12:26 PM by Ky.)
08-24-2013 10:30 AM
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brainiac3397 Offline
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Post: #2
RE: School and the Allegory of the Cave

Agreed totally. It connects personally. I feel as the man who has left the cave and tries to persuade others only to be misunderstood. Id love to say more but thatll have to wait for tomorrow when I can do from my laptop.

You get my rarely given thanks Biggrin

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(06-14-2013 08:02 AM)Potato Wrote:  watch the fuq out, we've got an "intellectual" over here.

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08-24-2013 03:52 PM
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Subb Offline
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Post: #3
RE: School and the Allegory of the Cave

If I was in the cave allegory, I wouldn't go straight outside. I would wait patiently for a few others to be ready, and then go outside together. That would be because some need to be with others to be ready, but also because I'm not quite ready myself.

I'm not sure if that applies to the school situation, though. If it did, then I think that SS would be me, and the reformed teachers, advocates, etc is the few others, and the rest is the whole cave. Of couse, some wait, and some are dragged behind.

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08-24-2013 04:20 PM
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xcriteria Offline
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Post: #4
School and the Allegory of the Cave

Yes, I can relate, and it's a useful metaphor. Check out The Cave: An Adaptation of Plato's Allegory in Clay for a short claymation video that depicts the story visually.

in retrospect, I made my way (partly) out of the figurative cave when I was 14, but I didn't know where to turn. I knew I wasn't learning effectively in school, and that my parents were missing some core bits of knowledge, but I didn't know where to go for knowledge, for the "sunlight" and all that. I didn't know what the "unwritten rules" of life where, and I didn't know how to find companions to help figure things out.

When I first learned about Plato's Allegory of the Cave, in my early 20's, I was skeptical of the whole concept. The idea that "our material world was a false reality" was off-putting to me. My reaction was, "this world is real.". My experience when I was younger was real, and is still part of reality, even if I could never get my family to acknowledge this. As Desu put it, Other people's lives are as real as your own... and so is Earth itself... the whole universe... the past and even the future... all of this is real.

However, the cave allegory is a powerful and relevant metaphor to waking up to greater understanding, and realizing there's more to life than it may first appear. There's more to this world than may be apparent... both psychologically and in terms of actual people, places, and whole worlds within the world at large.

When you're stuck in school, supposedly for "education," but most likely not learning how to think, imagine, create, and explore in much depth... the cave allegory is so fitting. It's even applicable to many of the adults in these systems, who may or may not realize that teaching single subjects in isolation is not the path to a greater understanding of life.

Thanks for posting this, DoA. So, what doe's one do, if they want to experience the sunlight, but you don't know how to find companions on the journey? And... do you go and build a community outside the cave, or try to alter conditions within the cave... or both?

One way to think about this cave metaphor is that it's not an all-or-nothing thing. All kinds of situations can be seen as cave-like, as well as feel like walking into the sunlight. Part of it depends on what you know, what you're used to, what's new to you, and all that.

So, how do you apply this to life itself? One related framework to think about is the Hero's Journey, which provides a way to think about stories that proceed from a "mundane world," through to various challenges, through to the "freedom to live" and/or the "return with the elixir" (basically, what you discover outside of the cave.)

When someone does listen to the "person who has seen beyond the cave" and takes steps as a result, that beyond-the-cave person or message is known as the Herald in storytelling terms.

he Herald brings a Call to Adventure. The Hero learns that s/he must leave the known world behind and travel into the land of adventure.

What that looks like depends on who and where you are, but it provides one way to think about things. Who else can relate?

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08-25-2013 12:32 AM
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Ky Offline
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Post: #5
School and the Allegory of the Cave

TvTropes links? Dang, I had stuff I really wanted to do today >_>

Indeed, Plato's Cave is a concept that can be applied to many different situations that may require higher understanding, and a concept closed-minded people never really seem to get. Being receptive to new information, while potentially painful, will leave you better off than you were before; it is better to "see the light" than to be "in the dark".

Public Service Announcement: First world problems are still problems.
08-25-2013 03:14 AM
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James Comey Away
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RE: School and the Allegory of the Cave

I'm bumping this because this is such a useful thread. Has this been pinned? Don't think so.

School really is a cave. A cave of conformity, social norm, and obedience. Schools basically run on what I like to call the "obey and survive" system. As long as you comply with what's going on, you'll be fine. Challenge, and face punishment.

Unfortunately, the cave blinds so many people. It blinds us to think in certain ways, and to act in certain behaviors. The cave tries to tell us which people to hang out with, what to do, what to let in our lives, what we must listen to, etc. Then there are the lucky ones that find the light. I am one of those people. A lot of us are too.

I wish not to see the cave blind more people. I wish to free people from the cave.

Leaving the cave can be a challenge, because frankly no one told you how to navigate outside the cave. Seems many of us face the exact same challenge: how do we navigate outside that cave? There are so many programs and alternatives and the number keeps growing and growing. Also, we need to learn to take risks in our lives, risks not encouraged or even spoken of in the cave.

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(This post was last modified: 02-11-2014 06:49 AM by James Comey.)
02-11-2014 06:47 AM
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Ky Offline
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School and the Allegory of the Cave

I agree wholeheartedly. We live in a world that improves not by remaining stagnant but by becoming innovative; we must, therefore, not force America's square pegs (the children) into round holes (the Prussian model of education). Instead, we should encourage the nation's (nay, the world's!) youth to dare to be creative.

But our society is scared of creativity. It is the positive essence of chaos, but it's still chaos. It represents the abstract world outside the cave. It defies everything our present understanding stands for.

I say that we should not be satisfied with our present understanding. We must not be slaves to the empirical and the logical. We shall follow Plato's example and assume that we are just a small part of a big world I'd like to call imagination.

Public Service Announcement: First world problems are still problems.
02-11-2014 07:21 AM
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Gwedin Offline
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Post: #8
School and the Allegory of the Cave

I'd rather be in a cave for six hours than school. So I think you're giving school a reputation it doesn't deserve there...
02-11-2014 09:43 AM
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School and the Allegory of the Cave

Not sure about that. I'd go insane if I were in a cave for 6 hours.... then again school has made me gone insane anyway.

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(This post was last modified: 02-11-2014 09:50 AM by James Comey.)
02-11-2014 09:50 AM
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Gwedin Offline
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Post: #10
School and the Allegory of the Cave

At least you'll [probably] be alone in the cave...

I'll just sit at the mouth of the cave and read. Fun fun fun.
02-11-2014 09:51 AM
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Post: #11
School and the Allegory of the Cave

It is true how Plato's theory can link to the system this way, I've certainly experienced it myself, but mainly the "prisoners thinking the escaped one is insane and wants to kill him", some people have an outside understanding, free from the ignorance taught into people's minds from a young age, then they come across you, and they hate your guts
02-24-2014 09:06 PM
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Mo the jo Offline
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Post: #12
RE: School and the Allegory of the Cave

I really feel like I can relate to the the allegory of the cave. This thread is almost a mirror image of me. I was imprisoned in the same way. SS and other sources really have rescued me, and helped me see a world beyond the narrow, one-right-way approach that schools teach.
12-25-2014 05:09 PM
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Ky Offline
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School and the Allegory of the Cave

Yes, one size does not fit all - indeed, many are not content with observing mere shadows. A wide world, of which there is much to learn, is hidden beyond the boundaries of the "educational" system we call school.

Public Service Announcement: First world problems are still problems.
12-26-2014 02:58 AM
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Mo the jo Offline
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RE: School and the Allegory of the Cave

We get a narrow, shaped-by-the-elite view of the world, that is totally not even close to the real world. I mean, 5 subjects represent all that the real world is about? Really? Our world is bigger than that!
12-26-2014 03:06 AM
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