The Education of Leaders
In The Republic, Socrates addresses the question of how a society should carry out the education of its leaders. His dialogue with his garrulous and quick-witted companions begins, interestingly enough, with a debate about the nature of justice, and only after an involved argument does Socrates get around to speaking about the education of leaders. He proposes that they will never understand justice until they see it manifested in its ideal form, in the just state. In order to conceive of the just state, they had to imagine what kind of education the citizens of such a state would require, as well as the education of its leaders. In their early years the future leaders would be educated with everyone else. That common education would provide the foundation for the society as a whole, through the nurturing of common values and collective identities as found in their traditions, their art, their mythology and through their collective socialization through group activities. As the rulers-to-be were selected away from the more ordinary youth, they would begin to receive more specialized education. That selection and specialization would continue into what we would consider early middle age, crowned by the study of philosophy. In the study of philosophy the leaders would come to understand how justice participates in Transcendent Goodness, and their contact with ‘the Good’ would enable them to govern the state virtuously and wisely.