Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ever Hear of The Socratic Method

Do you think we live in a controlling society, where the goal of bosses, parents, and teachers is to twist logic and reasoning to make others conform and do things their way?

Does the media support the economy in training society to be worker-drones and not question authority?

Is control in the eyes (and mind), of the beholder; we have independent will to choose regardless of others?

You have the ultimate volition and responsibility if you are willing to accept the consequences of your acts right?

Who Was Socrates?

Maybe he lived and maybe he is a mythical figure invented by Plato and Aristotle. He never wrote a book or put his ideas on the Internet so we are dependent on his Athenian friends for verification.

The dates given for his life are 470 to 399 BC, when he allegedly chose to drink hemlock (poison), instead of accepting exile from Athens. He was convicted of the crime of Impiety to the Gods, and corrupting Athenian youth through his teaching.

Athens had just lost the big war to Sparta the Peloponnesian War and Athens was looking for a scapegoat. The government was run by the 30 Tyrants who preferred to blame, execute or exile Socrates, than accept the label of governmental-incompetence for losing the war.

His Method

Four key elements:

a) Stimulate organized thinking through probing questions.

b) Keep the conversation focused on self-understanding leading to logical conclusions.

c) Always be intellectually fair with the person questioned.

d) Periodically summarize what has been concluded and its implications.

e) Remember the Socratic Method is skeptic1107al and questions flip answers and beliefs.

Is There Always a Single Answer?

Socrates and those present day teachers who use his method, use a conversational approach. They attempt to draw out the reasoning and correct answer from the student. They do not lecture the students, but interact through deft questioning.

The system is empirical and inductive, practical yet based on the life experience of all people. Socrates seeks to draw out the student to understand the implications of his/her beliefs, by deductive thinking comprehending its logical consequences.

One size fits all?

There is no single answer that works under varying circumstances. Change re- quires a new set of ideas and analysis. In law the judge is given discretion based on varying circumstances.

The Socratic Method is not a set of laws that we follow blindly, but reasoning leading to focused analysis and the best response.

Why Bother With This Method?

Lecturing is boring for both the instructor and the listener. The rate of speech of a professor is about 150 words per minute, while note-taking by the listener is no more than 25 words per minute. We, the listener, get lost in a flood of information and quit listening because we cannot keep up.

Question and analysis is interactive, leading to mutually satisfying conclusions.

The secret is Feedback. When we respond to questions by thoughtful answers, we invoke our basic instinct curiosity. Back-and-forth feedback monitors growing personal comprehension. It leads to an improvement in self-esteem.

Remember questions are specific and logical, and require a united effort between our left and right hemispheres. Lecturing is a reversion to childhood when your parents and teachers told you how and what to think. Q&A the Socratic method - is a joint-venture between adults.

Are There Any Rules?

a) Make the questions intriguing and mentally arousing.

b) Questions must lead someplace incremental steps to reasonable conclusions and implications.

c) Look for logical steps in thinking, not lockstep answers.

d) The goal is personal understanding, and being open to change of opinion through personal growth by logical thinking.

e) Make the student see the illogic of their own thinking, to correct it and move forward to better ideas.

We do not want to provide cues to the right-answer because the system is a matter of learning to think skeptically and find our own way to reasonable solutions.


Speed reading is a psychomotor skill that permits us to read three (3) books, articles and reports in the time our peers can hardly complete one.

Half the students who become drop-outs do so because they cannot keep up with the assignments. There are not enough hours in the day for them, to read and learn. Daily, they keep falling further behind. They read and remember information too slowly because they have no strategy beyond reading one word at a time, sub- vocalizing, regressing, and forgetting what they read within minutes of completion called porous concentration.

The Socratic Method is a strategy to train yourself to use questions and answers in pursuit of lucid analysis. Our experience is - it produces better long-term memory and focused attention.

Personal growth a learning skill goal occurs from the consistent use of probing question and listening for ideas, through logic and reasoning. If you want to grow you want to learn. Learning consists of gathering information and cross-examining it with solid questions, and analyzing what sticks to the barn door.

See ya,

copyright 2006

H. Bernard Wechsler

Author of Speed Reading for Professionals, published by Barron's Educational, business partner of Evelyn Wood, creator of speed reading, graduating 2 million, including the White House staff of four U.S. Presidents.

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