Examine the Allegory of the Cave (Literary Cavalcade 2001) as it relates to the modern day student.
Metaphorically, the student belongs to a world where he and his family are chained to the walls of an underground cave. In the middle of the cave’s floor, there is a dim fire that periodically flickers. One day, the young cave inhabitant breaks his chains and ventures to the top of the cave and looks outside and beyond the cave. He sees for the first time, flowers, trees, grass, clouds, and the blue sky. He even hears the chirping of birds! Amazed, he immediately runs inside the cave to tell the other cave inhabitants what he has seen. Excitedly, he explains with great detail all the marvelous things beyond the cave. He says, “Surely there is a better life for us up there than is for us down here!”
Much to the dismay of the cave dweller that broke away, the other cave inhabitants do not believe him and try to convince him that the life that he describes is impossible for them as well as him. They say, “Even if those things do exist, we’ll never know them. Our place has always been here, and, our place will always be here.” As the dreams of a better life, once held by the cave dweller who broke away, began to defer, his perceived station in life convinces him that maybe the others are right. How could he ever be more than an underground cave dweller? With the passing of time, the visions of the marvelous things above began to fade away. Eventually, the cave dweller who once broke away and took a glimpse at a better life chains himself back to the wall to look at the dim flicker once again.
Imagine how many students are just like the cave dweller that broke away. Every time they board a school bus, are dropped off by parents
, or walk to school, they venture to the top of the cave. If the principals, teachers, and other school staff members are good, they put visions of “flowers, birds, etc.” in their heads. Educators, as well as society at large, tell them that they can be anything that they want to be if they just get an education. Posters around the building say, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.” In the students’ minds, they begin to conjure all sorts of dreams and aspirations. Educators have done their job for the day. They have taught and inspired the young mind.
Those same students return to the cave every night. The dim flickering flame is a constant reminder of the world that is reality for them.
Some are told that no one in the family ever went to college, and, no one probably ever will. To the young cave dweller, rising above his current situation seems hopeless. The clear path up, out, and completely away from the underground cave is just not there. At one time the young cave dweller ran around the cave at night shouting dreams and aspirations. Eventually the young cave dweller resigns to a life of chaining himself back to the cave wall every night. At some point, he will stop unchaining himself in the morning. Another dream has been deferred.
How do we as a society prevent our youngsters from becoming permanent “cave dwellers?”