Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Pupils, we are told, must be kept 'happy' at all costs. It is a surprise, therefore, that the educational potential of drunkenness has not been recognised by Mr Ed Balls, or by government adviser Professor Sir Liam Donaldson who has proposed that the price of drinks be increased in order to cut drunkenness.

In his last work, Laws, Plato (427-347 BC) describes a Spartan boasting about how Sparta had abolished that most anarchic and licentious activity of all, the drinking party.

But Plato disagrees, arguing that 'Drunkenness is a science of some importance. . . and I am not speaking about taking or abstaining from wine: I do mean drunkenness.' His view was that, in regulated and purposeful form, drunkenness conduced to virtue, the greatest educational benefit of all.

The crucial condition was that drunkenness was controlled and directed to fulfil a vital function. School, Plato proposed, was the ideal place to start developing 'drinking skills'.

First, Plato argued, alcohol released the inhibitions and showed people in their true light. This gave teachers invaluable insights into the real character of the young people they were trying to educate. …

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