Pedagogues and teachers in ancient Greek society were slaves–often foreigners and the ‘spoils of war’. Pedagogues were trusted members of rich households who accompanied the children of their ‘masters’ everywhere, including sitting beside them at school and helping them with their homework. These pedagogues were seen as ‘tenders’ of children (pais plus agögos, a ‘child-tender’). Prepubescent children were often put in their charge until late adolescence.
Basically a pedagogue is a child minder. And not just any child, but minders of the children of the rich. Friere’s (1972) notion of the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’–the education of the privileged by the oppressed is an apt interpretation. Especially in line with policy makers low regard for teachers. Teachers are treated as lowly oppressed child minders for the rich.
But older adults teach not only children but adults. Malcolm Knowles (1970) was so convinced that adults learned differently to children that he created a new term–andragogy, as the art and science of helping adults learn–against pedagogy. But andragogy does not help the definition of wisdom of older adults.
Within ancient Greek society there was a strong distinction between the activities of pedagogues (paidagögus) and subject teachers (didáskalos). Didactic, the aim to instruct and teach morals or subject content. The Swedish researcher David Hamilton observes that United States usage of ‘pedagogy’ mirrors the mainland European use of ‘didactic’. The implicit meaning in the USA is that pedagogy is teaching and didactic is the method of teaching. But this does not define older adults as teachers.
Plato talks about pedagogues as ‘men who by age and experience are qualified to serve as both leaders (hëgemonas) and custodians (paidagögous)’ of children. Hegemony-derived from the Greek egemon, meaning “leader, ruler, often in the sense of a state other than his own” Although hegemony has been commonly used to indicate political predominance, where one ideology associated with one country, takes over the aspirations of the citizens of another country, little has been written on the hegemon, the individual that starts the idea rolling. A lot has been written in sociological literature on hegemony. The Italian political analysts, Gramsci comes to mind. But what about the individual who influences whole societies and the creation of new societies. There is truly one such man and it is not whom you are thinking of.
In our modern world where we the fear of terrorist as our daily fodder, where we are told to aspire to be the 1% and yet behave as though we are gangsters--tattoos and guns--and a supreme court that is unwilling to discuss our right for assistance at end-of-life--to end our fear of pain at the end of life--the message that Epicurus has is radical. He is a true hegemon.
Older adults wisdom is about marching to an internal drum beat, without ego, without fear. This is the wisdom we can impart. In our small manageable ways we are hegemons in our role.