March 16, 2005

Application of the Socratic Method to elementary school — primary school children gain a theoretical understanding of alien cultures by discovering that they knew it all along.

From completeness, Rick Garlikov's other essays on philosophy, theology, legal theory, government, politics, school-level education, and similar subjects. PS: Sorry, Garlikov is not emo.

  • Do you remember that the children, too, were to be taken to see the battle on horseback; and that if there were no danger they were to be brought close up and, like young hounds, have a taste of blood given them? - Plato, The Republic, Book 8, Chap. 7
  • fascinating, fuyugare! thank you for the link.
  • what a great post! When I got to the classroom for the binary math experiment, students were giving reports on famous people and were dressed up like the people they were describing. i like that part. heh.
  • also from his web site: The Meaning of Love ($23.95) oh, THAT's the meaning of love! and all these years i thought it was $37.82.
  • ((((((((((
  • Great post. I had an ancient philosophy professor who taught the entire course using the Socratic Method. Most engaging professor I ever had. I was never bored in his class.
  • SideDish: all these years i thought it was $37.82
    Yeah, sorry to say that now that humans are no longer a scarce resource, the love market has entered a deflationary spiral. Love has already been commoditized, and cutthroat competition will continue to make offshoring more lucrative. Human resources are far more abundant in China and India, after all. Expect love to lose even more meaning in the coming weeks. DISCLAIMER: the above is to be taken as 'forward-looking statements' and in no way constitutes love advice. The reader assumes responsibility for all losses resulting from taking it seriously. This is not a spam. I have a gr0wth st0ck in my pants. Haha!
  • Great post! I think the Socratic method should be used more often, especially to have kids tackle subjects where a "telling" method may not be as useful... and non-decimal mathematics is a classic example. How better could they otherwise understand that what they took for granted all along was merely ONE way to do it? Off topic: My favorite base-n math trick shows up in the Hithhiker's Guide series (apparently unintentionally)... Q: What do you get when you multiply six by nine? A: 42 (it works in base 13)
  • Q: Why do Computer Scientists celebrate Halloween on Christmas? A: Because OCT 31 = DEC 25
  • Hippy nonsense. Everything a child needs to know can and should be beaten in with a stick.
  • There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don't.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: bipolars.
  • For some reason that joke works so much better when you say "schizophrenics", even though it's not the correct term.
  • Really, though, I shudder to think if I taught my 5 year old the Socratic method. I have enough trouble out-debating him now. "Dad, can I have an extra cookie?" "No." "Why should I not have an extra cookie?" "It's bad for you." "And yet you let me have one cookie. Have you let me have something that's bad for me?" " cookie is all right." "If one cookie is all right, why are two cookies bad? Is there poison that builds up to a killing dose? If so, why would one NOT be bad?" "Well, they're not really bad...they're just treats. You only get one treat." "Father, what is important in life?" "..." "Is it not to enjoy good things, and be happy?" "...yeah, I guess..." "And is a cookie not a good thing? So sweet, so enjoyable, bringing such happiness to children such as I?" "..." "And as my father, is it not your desire to see your son happy? And if having another cookie makes him happy, then how are you fulfilling your desire? Why are you denying what is good?" "..." "..." "Okay. But just one." *munchmunchmunch*
  • TenaciousPettle: you just made me laugh. Thanks.
  • That transcript was great. Like I've always thought: a gifted teacher is the most precious thing any kid can have. Here's to those in that profession that struggle and pour out their intelligence, dedication and soul, no matter what. Those few that can be really called 'teachers'. And, TenaciousPettle, run, run away before s/he turns into a teenager... : )
  • Reading through the list of Rick's other essays makes me think this is what would happen if Jim Loy went to grad school.
  • Superlative! ))))))) to ye, fuyugare!!!!!!! And thank you for such thought-provoking material. /rave review
  • What a good and thoughtprovoking post, fuyugare. Bookmarked. I want to read his other essays now.
  • This is a great method of teaching. More teachers should attempt to engage thier students in this way. Ask questions, provoke conversation and reasoned thought. Too much of education has become rote preperation for tests and not enough time is spent teaching children how to think and reason.
  • Heh. Reading Questionable Content increases your brainpower. I was totally going to post this earlier. But then I didn't. Good going, fuyu!
  • This is awesome. And the writer is spot-on about getting kids engaged and involved in the learning process.
  • flashboy: Questionable Content
    Oh, is that where it's from? Thanks for the attrib! Incidentally, I just noticed that I miswrote 'for' as 'from' in the post. How shameful!
  • Amazing. My favorite high school Physics teacher used the Socratic Method. I loved Physics at high school. At college it was considerably more difficult. ...wondering now if it was the Method or the Content? I have an eight year old. And when she comes back from her Kung Fu lesson in half an hour, she's getting an introduction to non base ten number systems. Wish me luck.
  • Ah - the article was linked from today's QC, so I just assumed that's where you'd got it from... clearly not! Links do spread themselves far and wide, the little buggers.
  • So glad you came back, fuyugare, 'cause this is first class. And on the subject of rote vs. interactive: I feel there's a value in rote for some pretty basic stuff, like multiplication tables. Every kid I've known in the last eon has had a real problem getting them straight. I learned 'em after walking though ten feet of snow, (and they're still stuck in my head) in the second grade by reciting them a few times with the rest of the class. How would you learn that sort of thing so well using the method presented here? And, I've drilled several kids who were having touble and solved their problem. Really curious - is there room for both?
  • This was more convincing when it was taking place on a weird planet of Mickey Mouse Clones all with only four fingers who used base 8. We learned what base 8 was first (little more room to work with there), then were told how to apply that to binary, base 16, whatever.
  • Nice link, thank you. I wish I'd had a teacher or two willing to do this. I like, in particular, the first sentence in the 'my views' section at the bottom of the page: "Students do not get bored or lose concentration if they are actively participating."
  • TenaciousPettle: Best to end the cookie debate (or any other) before it gets out of hand by using the technique of the "Socratic Smackdown"
  • Thanks for this post, Fuyugare. It's a terrific essay, and I've been spending much of the day reading Garlikov's other writings. This is the kind of thing I came to MoFi for in the first place. That coupled with Mickey's Jim Loy link completely made my afternoon. Cheers!
  • I was thinking "moderation in all things" on the cookie bit, but then I know I wasn't too keen on moderation of anything as a kid, so that may be a lost cause. :) The binary transcript was awesome. I do have to worry that some kids would just sit there and not think and let the other kids carry the class... but maybe they'd actually be interested in learning if the techniques were switched around. And of course it'd work better with younger kids like these, who aren't entirely shut down to ever thinking or discovering or learning. (And maybe if there were a variety of methods used early on, the older kids wouldn't all be shut off like they are now.) Interesting, thanks!
  • This is neat.
  • Very nice - but it's been a long time since teachers just lectured at the children, hasn't it? I can't help remarking that this chap resembles Socrates in two particular ways: an immense ego and an eerily compliant audience.
  • I was in US public elementary school in the '80s, and it was pretty much just sit-there-be-quiet. I was one of those mildly smart but not genius-level kids who was bored out of my skull for 12 years. They had us do projects and research and such in the pull-out "gifted" program, but that's about it.
  • Pleggers, I spent a year in the US guiding 3rd graders around our local history museum. They are, at that age, wildly enthusiastic about anything different, especially, as in the museum, where they can see, touch, listen to, and model what they see. I had a blast doing it and don't recall any obviously bored or unimpressed kids.
  • I was extremely fortunate to have a teacher through part of elementary school who believed in the Socratic method. The bad thing about that is it made it all the more unbearable to get to normal teachers who just lecture a lot... We did learn math concepts this way. Mostly thanks to her, I was able to slack off in math all the way to part way through geometry in high school, and then suddenly started failing all my math because I hadn't bothered actually learning anything new since fifth grade. This, obviously, was a failing in me and not in teaching by the Socratic method. At any rate, we learned a lot and we learned it well. I'm pretty convinced it's a very useful and underutilized teaching method, partly because it does require more effort for the teacher. But this is how you tutor someone in math, after all. You go over the concepts with them by asking them questions, directedly, in order to get them to make the connections themselves. And it is pretty hard to introduce it later in life. I just realized while reading that essay that I have a professor who's trying to do this. He's just got too much material and too little patience to wait for us to figure it out. It's my favorite class though. Sorry for the long post; I like the topic. I happen to think I was taught well to begin with and then forgot about it, so I'd really love to see this used a little more widely in schools.