Critical Education and Moral Practice

Critical education refers to the type of education that teaches students the value of critical reasoning. The goal of any educational system is to produce a group of students who can think methodically and analytically in order to solve problems. The importance of education in bringing about social emancipation and justice cannot be overstated, as evidenced by Plato's philosophy and the work of W.E.B Du Bois. Plato discusses the importance of education to the guardians in his work The Republic, an observation shared by Plato. Similarly, W.E.B Du Bois in his work The Souls of Black Folk discusses the value of education in bringing liberation and justice in the society cannot be over-emphasized since it is clear in the philosophy of Plato and the work of W.E.B Du Bois. Plato in his work The Republic talks about the value of education to the guardians an observation shared by Plato. Similarly, W.E.B Du Bois in his work The Souls of Black Folk discusses the value of education in promoting liberation of black people. Learners passing through a system of education need to be well informed and be free from ignorance, as a result, critical education has the obligation of liberating the learners and the society from the tenets of ignorance, greed, and injustice.

The two texts evaluated the need for critical education, but there is need to understand the meaning of critical. In this sense, critical education refers to the form of education that teaches the student’s on how to evaluate and find solutions to problems. The role of education is to compel learners to think subjectively about solutions to challenges that effect people and the society (Plato, 2016). As Plato argues in the republic, it is important to create a just city which is founded on the tenets of knowledge and understanding of morality. The observation presents some views about critical education and its role in assessing and remedying the current situation and also offers a platform for rethinking about the future developments. Evaluating the conventional system based on Plato’s argument, it is evident that the approach is dogmatic and anti-intellectual because it emphasizes on the reproduction of existing knowledge (Plato, 2016). The observation supports the fact that education has become the tool for manipulation and enslaving the people and hence the need to be emancipated. The view is supported by W.E.B Du Bois who argues tries to show the real meaning of the emancipation proclamation to black people. The life of the African-Americans within the United States has been a history of struggling and striving to achieve self-consciousness through education (W.E.B, 2008). Education remained the major determinant of equality between the White Americans and the black slaves’ who were struggling towards being better and truer by seeking education. Such is the value of critical education in the modern American society.

Education on its own right should be critical and as Plato argues education needs to make the guardians in the city more just. According to Plutonic understanding that critical education involves the active search for justice and truth for the common good of the community (Rowe, 2017). Education is a social phenomenon that touches on leadership and politics just as discussed by Plato and critical education recognizes the issues of reflection and action based on the moral benefits of such behavior (Giroux, 2010). As Plato argues in the republic education is the foundation for the society to develop dignity and courage. In the Republic, Socrates reinforced the argument by saying education, should not instill fright particularly fear of death since it is impossible to be courageous if there is a consternation about dying. Similarly, W.E.B Du Bois looks at the intentional denial of education to blacks was an act of violence aimed at limiting the moral freedom and liberation of the black slaves after emancipation (W.E.B, 2008). It is evident that any system of government that tries to limit access to critical education is guilty of oppressive violence. Just as Plato argues in the Republic that courageous individuals should fear slavery more than death itself because enslavement oppresses the mind and limits it from free thinking. It is evident that the process of moral liberation takes place when there is courage and the struggle for freedom and justice just as Plato and W.E.B Du Bois argue.

Critical education discourages the materialistic view of education in the sense that learners are inclined to education because of the material needs. The critical agenda of education is to enlighten and remove individuals from the oppression of ignorance. As argued in the Republic equality is the essence of a just city, and this means that all people have different abilities and can specialize and do different jobs within the ideal city to bring about self-sufficiency. The concept of materialism in education contributes to injustice as the educated rich oppress and discriminate against others hence reducing the real meaning of education (Plato, 2016). Critical education discourages the issue of materialism and encourages the moral philosophy based on virtue and justice, values that represent greater good. Plato vehemently argues against materialism in the Republic by saying that through associations within the ideal city the people should produce what is adequate for them and produce the right kind of goods and in large quantities (W.E.B, 2008). He further argues that we would not need people because of their mental states or physical strength, but the way of life in the ideal city should be based on simplicity and peacefulness. The argument advanced by Plato is that in the ideal city there is no war, poverty or discord and although his perspective is opposed for lack of sophistication that comes with materialism which causes greed and wars. The fact is that a city that is bloated and led by materialism creates an unhealthy lifestyle and the greed leads to war within the city. It is up to critical education to liberate people from greed and materialism that results to injustice. The view is reflected in Du Bois work as he argues that the disparities in education were focused on creating classes with education being only accessible to specific groups and race of people (W.E.B, 2008). The effects of materialism are seen in the effects of the abolishment of slavery, and the declaration of freedom to all slaves ushered into a new time of war caused by greed. The American society was guided by the greed of capitalists at the expense of justice and morality.

As the market-driven logic of neoliberal capitalism proceeds with devaluing critical education, the public is losing interest in the ability of education to bring about justice. Education needs to be more concerned about the equality in terms of access to justice and the public good (Plato, 2016). Critical education means that educational institution through imparting the required skills and knowledge for workforce specialization and which can enable the country to develop equitably. The pedagogical foundation of critical education is based on liberation and moral practice. As such education is a moral enterprise and this means that it can contribute to common good. Critical pedagogy gives the student with the ability to assert their rights and freedoms responsibility without being subjected to supervision what Plato calls “freedom to think.” As learners, it is important to think beyond what is thought in a class, teachers should facilitate and encourage the learners to think beyond the common confines of conventional thinking (Rowe, 2017). The Socratic Method demands that teachers and educators need to encourage the learners to take the lead and question every aspect of the educational curriculum. Critical education demands that the students act on moral values to build their social relationship and also be responsive to the common problems in the society (Rowe, 2017). Critical education encourages the students to be more responsive to problems within the society. As noted by Du Bois it is necessary to move the society from the confines of prejudice and inequality, education needs to overcome these barriers, and this is based on the intrinsic power of education in enforcing morality. Critical education just like argued by Plato in the Republic is guided by passion and principles, and as such it helps the learners to develop consciousness of freedom. It is up to critical education to recognize the oppressive and authoritarian tendencies and embrace learning as freedom (W.E.B, 2008). It is evident that critical education needs to enhance imagination and connect the audience to the source of education and truth. As such critical education is part of the larger struggle for justice and democracy and as such critical education is a continuous moral project just as highlighted Du Bois and Plato.

As noted critical education is a new platform which is confined within the constraints on philosophy. The learning process is viewed as a dialogue that fosters rational thinking and that aimed at demystifying and transforming the scope of education. Critical pedagogy believes that education provides the learners with the opportunity to self-reflect and determine the areas of critical urgency. Critical pedagogy suggests that according to Plato needs to offer the learners to approach education as an object of development and inquiry. Plato sees the role of the guardians as custodians of justice (Plato, 2016). Similarly, W.E.B Du Bois views education as a platform for initiating social change within the society and liberating the oppressed African Americans from ignorance and oppression (Plato, 2016). The risk was that education to the blacks was a way of liberation to satisfy and rekindle and sustain the process of black liberation struggle after freedom from slavery. Liberatory education is important since it is centered on principles of social change. The transformation championed by Du Bois is centered on education that is based on creating self-consciousness (W.E.B, 2008). The concept advanced by Du Bois augers well with the concept of the hypothetical city proposed in the Republic by Plato, who says when seeking the meaning of justice for the individual then have a look at the city (Plato, 2016).

Finally, as seen in the view of the two thinkers, it is clear that education has a liberatory role and it is impossible for education to contribute to ignorance and injustice. In their work, they argue against any form of oppression that limits the people from exercising the right to question the validity of the social structure. Critical education is a practice of liberation as it engaged the oppressive forces of ignorance. Educational liberation as argued in the work of the two philosophers is a vehicle for fostering consciousness and engagement.


Giroux, H. (2010). Rethinking education as the practice of freedom. Truthout Archives.

Plato. (2016, June 22). The republic. (B. Jowett, Ed.) Retrieved on May 17, 2017 from:

Rowe, M. (2017). Critical digital pedagogy: Education as the practice of freedom. Mrowe .

W.E.B, D. B. (2008, January 29). The souls of black folk. Retrieved on May 17, 2017 from:

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