Education is a crucially important aspect of any person’s life in the modern world. Children of any race, gender, and income are encouraged by parents, mentors, and society to be persistent in studying. Starting from basic knowledge gained in primary school, the person begins to develop their worldview, accumulate wisdom, and seek a better life. It can be argued that education is the key to a well-paying job. However, there is an evident lack of equality when it comes to education, specifically college degrees. Although most American citizens can afford the fulfillment of a high-school diploma, the necessary decision to attend a university is not an option for everyone. According to Plato’s wisdom, every person is limited to their set of beliefs within their metaphorical cave. However, what can free them from that confined space of their own experiences and poor judgement is education, which represents the college degree in the modern world. Therefore, Community College should be free because it has the potential to offer great opportunities to graduates and improve society.
Education as the Necessary Light
To begin with, it is essential to acknowledge the role of a college education as the metaphorical light. Douglass writes, “The moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder” (2). Douglass’s story shows that reading and writing skills were enough for the historical era of slavery to break from the vicious cycle of exploitation. However, in modern developed countries, simple literacy competencies are not enough to escape working minimum-wage jobs and living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. It can be argued that nowadays, the primary barrier to freedom is not slavery but poverty, which also relates to other societal factors like race, ethnicity, and gender.
Following Plato’s cave metaphor, the people below the poverty level see the word of shadows, the cruel reality, since they are unable to access the visible world, which is enlightened by knowledge. Plato argues that one has to consider “the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world.” Being accepted and then paying for college education becomes increasingly challenging for people from low and middle-class. Generally, one either has to spend a considerable amount of lifetime savings or get burdened by student loans for years to afford to a university degree. Thus, people choose to remain in the shadows of the unknown and see the resemblance of the real, free life as it is acted out by the people behind them, the knowledge elite.
Benefits of Free College
The realization of a college education as the necessary stepstone for societal integration shows that free access to higher institutions is obligatory for individual freedom. It can benefit people greatly since they will not only realize the source of their life struggles such as poverty, stigma, or racism but also be equipped to battle such inequalities. Referring back to the life story of Douglass, he writes, “It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, … in moments of agony, I envied my fellow‐slaves for their stupidity” (3). This shows that gaining knowledge is a fundamental human right since it enables the person to see their individual and community problems.
Educational attainment also enables people to seek solutions instead of being powerless followers of unfortunate circumstances. As Plato claimed, for uneducated people, “the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images,” meaning that lack of learning can lead to being unknowingly abused and discriminated against. Similar to Douglass, who could have escaped slavery after learning how to write, people with college degrees are entitled to the opportunity of thinking independently, not conforming to the crowd, and claiming their rights. For example, the student of color coming from a disadvantaged family, if gotten the chance to finish college, would be able to seek a well-paid job and escape the cycle of generational poverty. Furthermore, education will enable them to confront cases of institutional racism since college will provide the necessary historical, sociological, and psychological framework to combat inequality.
Apart from free college being beneficial for individual freedom, it can also greatly enhance community and global equality. Plato claims that if an enlightened person returns to the cave and attempts at guiding others to knowledge, he will be judged and killed since “it is better not even to think of ascending.” The philosopher insinuates that a wise person cannot educate others; however, there is also an opposing opinion. Douglas tells, “From this time I understood the word abolition, and always drew near when that word was spoken, expecting to hear something of importance to myself and fellow‐slaves” (3). Here, the protagonist implies that he gains wisdom not only for his benefit but also for others.
Through knowing what abolitionism was, he could enlighten other slaves and urge them to seek freedom, metaphorically escaping the cave of conformity. Similar to Douglass, people who receive free education can empower others; for example, a woman in an abusive relationship who would otherwise not be able to afford college can receive information on feminism. As a result, she could leave the abusive partner and help other women by empowering them and establishing help centers and support groups.
In conclusion, it can be argued that the story of Douglass and Plato’s cave serve as exceptional lenses to assess the necessity of free Community College. Evidently, education is often denied to many disadvantaged individuals despite being the key to a fair and fulfilling life. It can not only aid one in seeking more opportunities individually but also cultivate the creation of a group leader who will enlighten others.
Douglass, Frederick. “Learning to Read and Write.” Learning Gabe, 2020. Web.
Plato. “Book VII of The Republic: The Allegory of the Cave.” Webspace, 2020. Web.