Corrupting Youth

Corrupting Youth: Political Education, Democratic Culture, and Political Theory

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 272
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    Corrupting Youth
    Book Description:

    InCorrupting Youth, Peter Euben explores the affinities between Socratic philosophy and Athenian democratic culture as a way to think about issues of politics and education, both ancient and modern. The book moves skillfully between antiquity and the present, from ancient to contemporary political theory, and from Athenian to American democracy. It draws together important recent work by political theorists with the views of classical scholars in ways that shine new light on significant theoretical debates such as those over discourse ethics, rational choice, and political realism, and on political issues such as school vouchers and education reform. Euben not only argues for the generative capacity of classical texts and Athenian political thought, he demonstrates it by thinking with them to provide a framework for reflecting more deeply about socially divisive issues such as the war over the canon and the "politicization" of the university.

    Drawing on Aristophanes'Clouds, Sophocles'AntigoneandOedipus Tyrannos, and Plato'sApology of Socrates,Gorgias, andProtagoras, Euben develops a view of democratic political education. Arguing that Athenian democratic practices constituted a tradition of accountability and self-critique that Socrates expanded into a way of doing philosophy, Euben suggests a necessary reciprocity between political philosophy and radical democracy. By asking whether we can or should take "Socrates" out of the academy and put him back in front of a wider audience, Euben argues for anchoring contemporary higher education in appreciative yet skeptical encounter with the dramatic figure in Plato's dialogues.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2233-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. CHAPTER I Imploding the Canon: The Reform of Education and the War over Culture
    (pp. 3-31)

    The issue of corrupting youth is part of the current debate over the nature and purpose of public education. At stake in that debate is the definition of a national identity and the possibilities of American democracy. What is different, even distinctive to the current debate dubbed the “Culture Wars” by conservative public intellectuals, is the apocalyptic rhetoric of Armageddon and battle. It is as if, having lived so long and found such moral comfort in the bipolarity of the cold war, we could not do without it, even if that meant shifting the battle lines from the international to...

  5. CHAPTER II Corrupting Socrates
    (pp. 32-63)

    In Plato’sApology of Socratesthe latter mentions the charge others have made and continue to make that he corrupts (diaphtheirei) the young (23D, 24C). Enamored by the way he punctures the pretensions of the various know-it-alls who dominate the city’s politics and culture, young men imitate his manner of questioning, thereby enraging those whose authority they challenge. Socrates is thus deemed responsible—Meletus will insist singly so—for corrupting the youth, who, as a result of his teaching and example, become instruments of corruption themselves, spreading the disease of disharmony everywhere. Given the force and range ofdiaphtheirōand...

  6. CHAPTER III The Battle of Salamis and the Origins of Political Theory
    (pp. 64-90)

    In this chapter I want to make an argument and tell a story about the origins of democratic politics and political theory in classical Athens. It is an argument in the sense that I have a thesis (actually several) and will offer evidence, mostly “literary” and “textual,” for it. It is a story, not only because the evidence is uncertain, and because I cannot, in such a short compass assess the evidence we do have, but because I will be talking about the mythologizing of a historical event, the naval Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. where an Athenian-led Hellenic...

  7. CHAPTER IV Democratic Accountability and Socratic Dialectic
    (pp. 91-108)

    As I suggested in chapter two, the death of Socrates at the hands of Athenian democracy is regarded as definitive not simply of a historically specific enmity between Athenian democracy and Socratic philosophy, but of a necessary if not desirable opposition between philosophy “per se” and democracy “per se.”¹ For Michael Walzer philosophers must dissociate themselves from the common ideas and ideals of their fellow citizens in part because philosophical validation and political authorization are two entirely different things.² For Allan Bloom they must be separate in order to protect politics from the potentially corrosive consequences of philosophy’s disregard for...

  8. CHAPTER V When There Are Gray Skies: Aristophanes’ Clouds and the Political Education of Democratic Citizens
    (pp. 109-138)

    Democratic Athens was as much a culture of performance and spectacle as it was one of accountability and self-scrutiny. This meant that theater “stood alongside other public forums as a place to confront matters of import and moment” and that politics, law, religion, athletic contexts, music, and poetry were public and performative so that one form of cultural expression merged easily with another. Even aspects of what we regard as “family” life, such as rites of passage, weddings, and mourning the dead were theatrical, as were symposia where music and poetry were presented. And the plays themselves both refer to...

  9. CHAPTER VI Antigone and the Languages of Politics
    (pp. 139-178)

    This chapter is about the languages of politics. I am less concerned to define politics than to ask about the force of “political” in phrases such as political order, political power, political knowledge, and political wisdom. Can we say what is distinctive to the domain or field of politics without being overly historicist or hopelessly ahistorical? Is politics defined by who does it (men as opposed to women, adults as distinct from children, coreligionists as distinguished from dissenters or heretics), by where it is done (in prescribed institutional settings), by subject matter (war or taxes), or by its ground so...

  10. CHAPTER VII Oedipean Complexities and Political Science: Tragedy and the Search for Knowledge
    (pp. 179-201)

    In theApologySocrates admonishes his fellow citizens for caring more for power and wealth than for truth, wisdom, and the goodness of their souls. If he corrupts the youth, it is by this insistence that excellence or virtue is a necessary condition for knowing what is valuable in private and public life and living by it. He himself is an example of his argument since he neglects those public and private goals valued by most men so he can pursue conversations with all he meets (but especially his compatriots) about why they should honor some things more than others....

  11. CHAPTER VIII The Gorgias‚ Socratic Dialectic, and the Education of Democratic Citizens
    (pp. 202-228)

    The question of who corrupts the young obscured what is perhaps a prior question, one that frames theApologyeven though it is not explicitly raised in it: how can one know what effect one has on others? There are so many contingencies even in the relationship between two people, say a teacher and student or a parent and child, that the idea of knowing how to educate one’s fellow citizens politically seems daunting to say the least. We know that reading the “right” books does not always form the “right” action, that taking courses in moral philosophy or professional...

  12. CHPTER IX The Protagoras and the Political Education of Democratic Citizens
    (pp. 229-266)

    Virtually every political, theoretical, and pedagogic issue broached in the previous eight chapters is reprised in theProtagoras.That fact, together with the fact that the dialogue is explicitly focused on the relationship between democracy, education, and philosophy, makes it an appropriate subject for this concluding chapter. As Protagoras is Socrates’ interlocutor in the dialogue, so is theProtagorasmine.

    It is often said, by both sympathizers and critics of Athenian democracy, that there was no theoretical defense of democracy by an ancient Greek. Even if I am right that political theory was shaped by a democratic culture it exemplified...

  13. INDEX
    (pp. 267-270)