The Socratic Oath for Educators


Today the BBC reports that Tristram Hunt, Member of Parliament and shadow education secretary, publicly called for a public oath teachers take committing themselves to the values of their profession. Like the Hippocratic Oath for doctors, this educator oath would espouse all of the aspirations of a dedicated education professional. It is generally held that Hippocrates or one of his students wrote the Hippocratic Oath in the 5th century BC. It invokes Apollo, the Greek god of healing, at its outset. You can read the modern Hippocratic Oath, revised in 1964, in its entirety here. But what would an oath for educators look like?

Perhaps it should follow the spirit and structure of the Hippocratic Oath, but be rephrased to reflect the unique charge of professional educators to society. And rather than Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, this oath should bear the name of the father of western thinking; Socrates.

Keeping this in mind, I have crafted a proposed oath for professional educators – a Socratic Oath – for your consideration. Thank you to everyone who offered feedback and input in refining this important creed for educators everywhere!

“I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won gains of those educators in whose steps I follow, and gladly share such knowledge with my colleagues. I will not enter into any relationship that creates even the appearance of impropriety in ethically carrying out this creed. My sole professional responsibility is to students, helping them to take charge of their learning, health and happiness.

I will not hurt any student, and I will protect all learners from harm. I will remember that there is art to learning as well as science, and that caring, empathy, social, emotional and physical development are as critical as intellectual achievement. I will apply, for the benefit of each student, all available instructional supports and resources, in the knowledge and conviction that we each learn differently, and that everyone can learn.

In all things, it is my charge to prepare learners to participate as citizens of a global society. I will not be ashamed to say “I do not know” as I model inquiry, risk-taking, collaboration, perseverance and resilience for students and colleagues alike.

I will respect the dignity of my students and their families, for they are entrusted into my care. I will not judge others, and I will tread with care as they work through challenges and frustrations. Everyone deserves many chances to dream, learn and be successful.

I will inspire all learners to be and do their best. I do not work to achieve minimum proficiencies, nor am I charged with teaching to the lowest common denominator. Learning is an iterative process, and I will work to instill that inner discourse within each student.

I will remember that I am a member of humankind, contributing to its future; the future for which I prepare all students. I will foster a learning environment where each learner is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged, so that they may flourish at their current interest and ability levels and grow to realize their full potential.

In honoring this oath, may I enjoy a robust career, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May my legacy preserve the finest traditions of my profession, and leave this world a better place than I found it. Most importantly, may I spark in students a healthy curiosity, a thirst for discovery, and the hunger to be life-long learners who contribute to the greater good.”

I hope you are as pleased with this refined version of the oath as I am, incorporating the edits and revisions suggested by each of you here in your comments and by email.

You can view the oath at the Surfaquarium here.

Walter sig

13 thoughts on “The Socratic Oath for Educators

  1. rackerly says:

    Good list. I object strongly to the word “instill” in the last sentence of the last paragraph. I very much agree with “most importantly,” but believe that acting as if all human beings are wired with a love of learning and engaging in the endless process of throwing just the right fuel on that fire is central to everything we do. We should be acting as if all humans want to learn. We can’t instill curiosity. IT is already “in.” our job is to feed it.


  2. Mary Liscombe says:

    I think what is missing is the inclusion and respect of the learner’s family – no matter what that family consists of- as part of the learner’s environment and learning process.
    Also, some mention of instilling a desire to learn – learner centered – on the learners so that they know they have the power to continue to learn on their own throughout their lives.
    I also think discourse is important in the development of one’s own knowledge and belief system and the opportunity to productively challenge one another with the goal of learning is very important.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Besse Dawson says:

    Ah, in following the model, it is of appropriate length. Two very important things that I learned: unkind words can devastate a person for years; conversely, even the smallest words of encouragement that ring true can stay and build the self- worth. Just letting them know what they are personally doing right can mean the world. I don’t know if there is a way to incorporate kindness of speech into this oath, but teachers often forget this.

    Liked by 1 person

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