Socratic Practice

James Rehm’s review of Michael Strong’s book on Socratic practice makes me want to be a teacher.

“Socratic questioning,” writes Strong, “is an endlessly sophisticated art. It is the engine that drives Western thought forward. Socratic questioning is not a technique, it is an approach to conceptual understanding which contains within it an intrinsic craving for conceptual refinement at every level of understanding.” (p. 149).

…A good argument can be made, he says, that introductory science courses would teach more if they offered students an immersion in scientific method and thinking rather than flooding them with a sea of information. In the same way, Strong – who likes math and is good at it – believes that Socratic practice should be a prerequisite for all math education. Why? Socratic practice, whether it traffics in discussions of trust, love and betrayal or other ideas equally remote from square roots and tangents, improves students’ facility with abstract concepts, and abstract concepts are the basis of mathematics, which is at root a way of thinking rather than a body of knowledge.

In reading the whole of this review, I notice that I have some deep inner valuing of teaching and learning. They are self-inviting, self-satisfying, self-sustaining. The more I teach or learn, the more I want to teach and learn. And in Socratic practice these two seem to run together, as the flow of Awareness. Why stop with the humanities, math, and science? Why not paint all of our work with this care?

Strong’s book, The Habit of Thought: From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice is available at New View Publications.

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