Before you waste money on college consider. Plato tells the story of prisoners caught in a cave. They are chained and able only to see shadows on the wall.
Most of us hear the story and think of ourselves, generously, as prisoners.
We pride ourselves on realizing that we are chained to assumptions and ignorance. “If only we can be free,” we think with pride, “we would escape the dark cave of our ignorance.” We forget the story is about education and that the prisoners are not the only ones living in the cave. Entertaining the prisoners, educating them, are puppet-masters. They are free to move about the cave, could leave if they chose, but instead tend a great fire and fool the prisoners into being content with their fate.
What do they gain?
These puppet-masters avoid the pain of a long journey and gain the status of those “in the know.” They are not fooled by the cave and (I assume) can sit in their time off laughing about the naivety of the prisoners.
God help me, but I recognize too much of the puppet master in myself and see too much of the system in American colleges. We do not free our students, but instead fill them contentment with the established order of things. Religion is kept in its place, philosophy is a hobby not a way of life. The college professor may not be free of the cave, but we are free of the chains that shackle the prisoner. Having lost faith in anything greater or lacking the courage to seek it, we edutain rather than educate. Something better is possible.
There exists the possibility for real education: getting free of convention and learning to think. Socrates was a forerunner, Jesus was the Way. Jesus came and showed us grace and truth, but He also knew that pain was necessary to root out the sins that we love. He set us free by grace through no work of our own, but then allowed us the liberty to walk out the cave in cooperation with reason and truth. Jesus is God, but he refuses to be a puppet-master. He wants adult children, friends, and not puppets.
Puppet-masters need an audience, the Lord Jesus wants to make us all free.
How can you tell if your church or school is in the grip of puppet-masters?
Puppet-masters placate you, real teachers challenge your assumptions.
Puppet-masters ape to the spirit of the age, real teachers accept what is good in our times, but are willing to learn from the past.
Puppet-masters give credentials regardless of competence, real teachers care about actual learning.
Puppet-masters encourage passive learning, real teachers journey with their students.
Puppet-masters are superior to their students, real teachers serve their students.
Puppet-masters love “facts” and correct responses, real teachers inculcate wonder without fear of any facts.
Puppet-masters manipulate for money and power, real teachers would suffer for their students.
All of us are prisoners to our vices and to our culture. We can be free, but only if we look for teachers that will set us free. All of us, once free, face the temptation to become puppet-masters, satisfied with status in the cave. But we can stop, we can turn from the system of the cave and begin the long journey to the Light.
Because before any man was free, the Light became a prisoner Himself and lived in the cave with us. We saw Him, full of grace and truth. He set men free and did not allow cheap pleasures, instead he demanded we follow Him up and out. He is there to help, to heal, to hold, but He will never amuse or placate. I reject slavery and I reject being a puppet-master. I want to be a free man and a man who sets men free.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a prisoner and a puppet-master.