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Education Matters: Socrates could clean up dirty elections

February 17, 2011|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I came upon a story that has a moral for all of us, as well as a special application with the approach of local elections. As more and more contests (at all levels of government) are being decided not on an individual’s qualifications but on an opponent’s successful character assassination, it is up to us, we who cast our ballots, to expect/demand better.

The story takes place in ancient Greece where Socrates came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”


“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Test of Three.”

“Test of Three?”

“That's correct,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student, let's take a moment to test what you're going to say.

“The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man replied, “Actually, I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”

“No, on the contrary.”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you're not certain it's true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, “You may still pass though because there is a third test — the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.

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