How I Came To Draw This Cover
For the cover, my mother had wanted to use a photo my dad took of a sunset in St. Croix. Beautiful photo, but I asked her if there was a way to also communicate the book’s theme.
I had just completed an Art School called “Art Instruction Schools” (a correspondence course). Funny enough, I had enrolled because my dad used to encourage my art.
So, I offered to draw a cover that might express the theme. My mom graciously agreed. In my mind, I also wanted to give back to my dad’s belief in my art, too.
I chose Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to communicate the theme. I thought this would be perfect because Plato’s allegory was about education.
Now, here’s the funny part…
Coming Full Circle
My mother agreed to use the drawing for the cover and the book was ready to be published. (I know that’s not the funny part, but it’s coming up, I promise. 😄) A few images my dad wanted to use had pixel issues. The Publisher asked me if I could get the original photos and scan them again.
So, I went into my parent’s basement to look for those original photos. While I did, I came across a printout of an email exchange between me and dad from my freshman year in college. My dad had kept it.
In the email, I told him how excited I was about having just read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave for the first time. It was about education! I had told my dad that the character of Socrates reminded me of my dad, because he tried to make you think for yourself by asking questions.
Then I asked my dad this question: how did he become a professor of education? I knew his dad didn’t value education like my dad did.
He couldn’t answer my question. Next thing I knew he was writing about it. That would turn into a book called Fighting Prosaic Messages.
I had forgotten that conversation, which may sparked the writing of the book. Again, the book started off from a discussion about Plato’s allegory.
When I happened on that email exchange by accident, it was like the book came full circle. But the allegory also turned out to be the perfect symbol for the theme of my dad’s book.
What the Cover Means
As you can see, I used the cave as how I thought my dad critiqued the U.S. education system: students are motivated extrinsically with the gold star, and they’re regurgitating facts. It’s important to learn facts, but there seems to be little room for critical thought, creative thinking, or developing a voice.
Fortunately, in my picture, there’s a boy who sees a sliver of light. The light makes him turn around to see what’s behind him. It’s Socrates at a distance at the exit of the cave.
Socrates leads the boy outside the cave. That part of the drawing is supposed to represent the kind of education my dad advocated instead: through critical and creative thinking, we contact reality.
Not only that but the way the Socratic teacher helps the boy out of the cave was meant to symbolize what my dad thought was the key to effective teaching: care.
The hope is this kind of education might motivate students intrinsically. If so, students’ education might continue long after school has ended. And students might also want to give back to their communities.
This is where my dad and Plato agreed on what education is truly about: turning the soul from the shadows of conventional belief, unquestioned opinions, self-absorption toward the light of truth and the good. So, seeing the “sun” above isn’t just about gaining knowledge, but also about moral transformation.
Another favorite philosopher of my dad’s, John Dewey, might add that a healthful democracy can’t flourish without that kind of education.