Two Socratic Educators

Each week, Michael Strong, author, school founder, and educator extraordinaire talks to Francisco at the Reeds about the philosophical and methodological underpinnings of Socratic dialogue. This series is based on Michael's conversations with Alana.
Read more about Michael's approach to Socratic in his article, "How to Give Your Child an Expensive Education-- for $3,000 dollars Per Year" or in his book The Habit of Thought. 

Francisco and I discuss Alana on fantasy stories

Francisco and I discuss my earlier conversation with Alana on "What is a fantasy story?"
We first go into this episode as an example of concept teaching, what is a fantasy, what is not a fantasy, and what is a borderline case? We then explore how to use contradictory responses as a gateway to discovery rather than as a "gotcha" response when asking children Socratic questions. We then discuss Socrates as a "midwife" in the Platonic dialogues, using the midwife metaphor as a model for adults leading intellectual dialogues with children. This is then continued into how being such a midwife to your child's ideas leads to the development of young people who develop distinctive worldviews, aesthetics, style, and individuality more generally. Finally, in examining the directions such conversations go, we articulate how exploring the boundaries of moral thought can lead to young people with stronger moral convictions.

Francisco and I discuss Alana on summer/winter

Noting that the conversation with Alana that started out with an exploration of what she knows about summer vs. winter, then onward to a more general conversation about science, history, and what is valuable about knowing.

Francisco and I get into a much longer conversation about learning, retention and learning, and what it means to internalize an understanding about the world. From there we get into how this relates to "understanding from first principles" that is celebrated in the tech world, and from there onto how Socratic learning that reduces the extent to which AI will take over our jobs. Finally, we get into the importance of having an emotional charge in making learning connections, and how we do this through a Socratic conversation.

Francisco and I discuss Ethan and Alana on reading

Francisco and I go into a big picture dialogue on Socratic learning here, going into the difference between conceptual learning and procedural learning, the nature of my focus in leading Socratic dialogues, and how the nature of these questions and conversations are designed to create a positive emotional experience around such intellectual activity, and finally how these conversations provide a foundation for a richer intellectual life later on.

Francisco and I discuss Alana's convo on Island of Blue Dolphins

Francisco and I discuss an earlier conversation with Alana in which she discusses Island of the Blue Dolphins with me. We end up going deeply into the issue of reading and our (as adults) relationship to developing a positive, curiosity-driven relationship to reading in children. We then contrast this to conventional school-driven approaches to reading, which very often damage a child's relationship to reading.

Francisco and I discuss Ethan and Alana on knowing what they know

Here Francisco Contreras Moran and I go deeply into Alana's conversation with me on how she knows what she knows and what she doesn't know.

Francisco and I discuss Alana on memory

Francisco and I discuss my conversation with Alana on memory. We explore certain patterns in my questioning, including how I'm focused on how Alana makes sense of the world, then onto the similarities between my Socratic approach, based on being a midwife to the ideas of the other, and the more contemporary notions of steelmanning an argument or the principle of charity. We then discuss the way in which such arguments bridge community and individuality. We go on into how such a Socratic education serves as the "conscious development of personal identity" leading to the capacity to become a moral rebel when need be because one has become habituated to standing up for one's own intellectual and moral commitments.

Two Socratic educators discuss Socratic dialogues with children: Alana on survivalism

Francisco Contreras Moran and Michael Strong discuss Alana's conversation on survivalism. Francisco is a nuanced observer and serious practitioner of Socratic dialogue. By the end of this conversation we were talking about "the frontiers of joy" as a heuristic for guiding the conversation.

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