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Christopher Phillips quote

If someone told you, we learn more from asking questions than finding answers, would you believe them? According to the ideas of Socrates as passed down to us by Plato, it is only through continual questioning and refinement of our ideas and thoughts in discussion with others that we discover the true nature of what we truly value and hold dear.

Socratic questioning  forces us to face our preconceived beliefs and cognitive biases. For example, how do we know something is a chair or a dog? This video demonstrates that it is not a simple prospect.

Socratic questioning allows us to explore concepts often learned in childhood.  By asking questions like "What is wisdom?" What is love?" "What is peace?" "How can we overcome racism?" and continually questioning the answers we come up with, we begin to understand ourselves and break through cognitive biases.

According the Christopher Phillips, the Socratic process of give and take is one that can help build group identity and foster understanding of different perspectives.

Philosophers' Club by Christopher PhillipsThe Socrates Cafe movement and the Philosophers’ Club book for kids (Spanish version) by Christopher Phillips brings this approach to thinking to modern diverse audiences. According to Phillips, children are particularly open to this form of dialogue because they are not yet afraid to speak their minds and follow ideas down twisting pathways.

Besides the Socratic Cafe approach which is very open-ended, there are several other organized formats for Socratic-like discussions.  The National Deliberation Forums provide a very structured approach to discussions of major issues. The following video explains how to use the Socratic Method as a teaching approach in the classroom.

But you don't have to be a teacher to use this method. If you are a parent, try asking questions as a way to develop critical thinking in your children. In work situations, consider using the format as a way to understand each other better. Here are some guidelines to follow.

  • Socratic inquiry is not teaching, but rather a way to deepen your own understanding of the world and your values.
  • The Socratic inquiry involves a shared dialogue. You ask a thought-provoking question. Your discussion partners ask questions back.
  • The Socratic inquiry works best in a relaxed atmosphere where participants are willing to suffer some discomfort and struggle with no perceived goal except to learn and enjoy the give and take.
  • For best success, choose open-ended questions that do not have one right answer, and remember the process is designed for your personal growth not for changing other people's minds.

Try the Socratic Method by joining in this week's discussion.

"What is peace?"

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Teach Peace Now
Teach Peace Now
We offer books, activities, lesson plans, and ideas that teachers, parents, and students can use to promote values, attitudes and behaviors which encourage non-violent resolution of conflict, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding and tolerance.

2 Comments

  1. Ryannha Shepherd says:

    To me peace means the absence of violence – feeling safe and content while living and working with others. What do you think?

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