Plato's the Meno is most commonly taken as a book about virtue. In my opinion, the Meno's central issue is teaching. The entire book revolves around Socrates answering Meno's questions about virtue. It is a book that teaches us about teaching, rather than actually answering the question that is presented, "Can virtue be taught? Or is it not teachable but the result of practice, or is it neither of these, but men possess it by nature or in some other way?" Every time Meno presents a question to Socrates, Socrates presents a question back. The question is never answered throughout the text which lets us know that this is not the purpose of the book. Meno asks Socrates many questions throughout the text but none of those questions are really answered straight from Socrates.
Socrates is constantly presenting Meno with a question to ponder. Meno, in turn, is actually learning from himself. He has all the answers within himself and it is up to Socrates to bring them out of him. As a student I would always get agitated when a teacher wouldn't answer my question directly, but rather would give me something to think about.
I never understood why they just couldn't answer my questions, after all, they were my teachers. However, after time, I realized that in order for us to actually learn things, we have to bring them out of ourselves. We have to search our mind for a place where we can get a solution. Every time I see a problem, particularly in math, I find myself searching my thoughts for the answer.
I know it is in there somewhere, I just have to stop to find it. Socrates believed that learning is a process of recollecting the past. In a way, I believe this to be true. Questioning a person is the best way to get them to recollect. They keep searching, and searching, until they find a solution.
And if they seem to be fed up with it, you question them with something else. In the Meno Socrates admits, "For I myself do not know the answer when I perplex others, but I am more perplexed than anyone when I cause perplexity in others. So now I do not know what virtue is; perhaps you knew before contacting me, but now you are certainly like who does not know. Nevertheless, I want to examine and seek together with you what it may be." This is where he states his belief in learning through recollection. Socrates is showing that he himself does not know the answer, but maybe if they can work together he can gain the answer from Meno.
He believes that someone has the answer within them, and maybe Meno is that person. Meno then questions, "How will you look for it, Socrates, when you do not know at all what it is? How will you aim to search for something you do not know at all? If you should meet with it, how will you know that this is the thing that you did not know?" This statement is one that many of us would ask, after all, it makes sense; How can you find something inside of you when you have no clue at all what it is? But it is Socrates belief that they can find it inside of them. In my opinion, having someone to help you go through it can help to expand your mind and ideas. It can help you to think in different ways. Teachers are so useful in the way that they help you to explore yourself.
I'll never forget my high school psychology teacher, Mr. Jim Fari no. He would give us a question every night to go home and think about. Each question would count as a quiz grade so that we would have to do it, otherwise our grade would be effected.
He graded it so that our answers weren't tested, but our way of thinking was. He wanted to see that we actually thought about the questions he was asking. He would ask simple questions, such as "What is your favorite color and why." They were so simple but they got u to realize why you liked or disliked certain things. The questions got you to learn about yourself.
Mrs. Barbara Gar della was my writing teacher for two years. She would have the class do group work at least twice a week. Our assignments would be to read an article, or a work of literature, and write a short paper on them. By working with other people I would always find myself thinking in different ways. Each person would have their own analysis of the reading.
I found it easier to see things when other people would help me out. It was like a small group of teachers. Each person in the group would tell the others their opinions on the subject matter. Together, we would work to find a commonly believed meaning of the text. This is much like Socrates's tate ment, "I want to examine and seek together with you what it may be." He wanted to get the job done together; to explore one another's way of thinking.
Teaching is something that is passed down. One person teaches another how to be a teacher. There is a part in the Meno where Socrates presents a math equation to a slave boy. Socrates notes, "You see, Meno, that I am not teaching the boy anything, but all I do is question him." Socrates is passing down his way of teaching to Meno. He is proving to him that an answer can be reached without actually telling the person how to do it. It is important for one to show another how to teach so that we continue our process of learning.
If noone was taught how to be a teacher, how would we ever know to search within our self?