Before there was a philosophy of education – which started in the nineteenth century – there was just education. It was the medium in which one generation transferred its knowledge to the next. Post-Renaissance education, Middle-Ages education, Greek education, Babylonian and Egyptian education were all of this kind. In fact, we can trace this all the way back to our tool-making ancestors. As soon as the first homo erectus bashed two stones together, they knew instinctively that they had to pass on this newly acquired skill to the next generation.
And from then on, the forces of evolution were directed solely at the brain, whose development was driven by the newer and newer skills taught by the current generation to its offspring. The evolution of the rest of the body became subordinate to the function of the brain.
When our ancestors discovered how to start a fire, by sheer instinct, they educated their next generation on how the new discovery worked. When the first words were uttered, our ancestors made a point of passing on this abstract skill to their offspring. As the abstractness of the skill increased, so did its perceived necessity and importance. And the transfer of the abstract knowledge required the participation of more and more members of the social network (teachers). Egyptians made sure that the next generation acquired the newly discovered abstract skill of writing and built institutions in which this took place. A tablet, probably used in the first madrasahs to teach Babylonian children the abstract skill of the latest technique of multiplication, still exists. Plato insisted on teaching the Greek children the abstract skills of reading, writing, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music in elementary schools. Considering the fact that the first book on geometry – Euclid’s Elements – was not written until almost a century after Plato, and therefore, that geometry was at the forefront of research during Plato’s lifetime, you can imagine how rigorous – and measured by today’s American standards, insane – his curriculum was. Nevertheless, Plato’s educational ideology was arguably the most important factor in the development of the Greek genius.