How does Socrates continuously revolutionize how we teach?
Originally Published in History of Yesterday on Jan 3
· 6 min read
Being rational helps us with the process of being logical. And you should try to be as rational and logical as possible if you are interested in profiting the most out of a situation.
We must also listen to our emotions and feelings because there are many situations where rationality alone does not help us to act in the best possible way.
This intuitive way of listening to emotion and feeling can tell us how we feel about a certain situation or person. They are useful in informing us of what action might bring the most happiness, rather than most profit.
Unfortunately, emotions are irrational and it is common to be misled by them.
Nevertheless, as I said before, we mustn’t let our rationality and logic take over completely.
It is important to listen to your feelings because it is from there that true happiness stems.
To tie all this together, I want to tell you the story of an extraordinary man who once lived. He was named Socrates. Here is a brief description of Socrates written by Plato:
“Socrates was a great man.
He was so loved for his wisdom and power of argument that the people came from all over to hear him speak. When they did, he would ask them questions about their lives and how they thought things should be in society.”
This is an important point.
Socrates was a great man because he questioned everything, and taught others to do the same.
He wanted them to think for themselves rather than just accept things as they were. The philosopher would ask questions about the laws and customs of a city and how these could be improved.
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Teacher of teachers
I know that this is a simple way of seeing the subject as there is more than what appears on the surface, but to me, the biggest impact of Socrates in our society is that he taught humans about how to communicate with each other.
People must understand why they are communicating with each other and what the purpose of such communication is.
Communication should be honest.
People should know why they are communicating.
Nevertheless, even after taking a moment to digest that communication should be honest and that it’s important to know why we are communicating with each other, we still fail to do this.
Most of the time, there are instances where a lack of honesty in communication results in disastrous consequences.
An example of dishonest communication is when a person lies to their family, friends, or even strangers. It may seem silly, but in the long run, it can result in conflicts with others who are involved in the situation.
It’s time that we understand the importance of honesty in communication.
Being honest with each other is important because it helps to create a healthy relationship between people and prevents catastrophic misunderstandings.
Don’t be rude
Another thing Socrates taught humans was that we must communicate without being rude.
For instance, when someone asks a question and the other person responds in an angry manner, it creates tension between the two people
This tension may result in unnecessary antagonism from the other person and ultimately wreck the dialogue.
With my — somewhat limited — studies of human communication, it is clear that the most important thing Socrates can teach us about human communications are not necessarily his direct teachings, but rather the model he provides for teachers/mentors.
I believe that this model projects a different role to what we generally think of when we think of mentors and teachers.
For example, Socrates would not take on any student who came along interested in him.
Instead, he would take on the students who had already shown some potential existing within them.
With this method, the students will be more likely to succeed because it is their own internal motivation that is driving them to learn from Socrates’s wisdom.
Socrates’ Teaching Model
Looking at the various existing depictions of Socrates, we notice that there is a wide variety of views within them.
Some of these versions of Socrates are largely focused on his logic and philosophy while others are more heavily focused on his political or religious teachings.
I noticed that the most common ground among these variations is the model of teaching that we inherited from this philosopher.
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This model allows for teachers and mentors to help their students to improve themselves by working with them in an ongoing way, rather than just by teaching them some established doctrine.
This is miles away from the modern standard view of teaching, which tends to be more like that of a teacher who lectures at students and expects them to absorb the information.
Is it just me or university classes today feel like watching a live YouTube lesson?
This leads us to:
Socrates teaches with words.
It’s clear from his dialogues where he argues with others for the benefit of the reader.
Example of Socratic dialogue:
Gorgias: Rhetoric, Socrates, is my art.
Socrates: Then I am to call you a rhetorician?
Gorgias: Yes, Socrates, and a good one too, if you would call me that which, in Homeric language, “I boast myself to be.”
Socrates: I should wish to do so.
Gorgias: Then pray do.
Socrates: And are we to say that you are able to make other men rhetoricians?
Gorgias: Yes, that is exactly what I profess to make them, not only at Athens but in all places.
(Christopher Rocco, Tragedy and Enlightenment: Athenian Political Thought, and the Dilemmas of Modernity. University of California Press, 1997)
These are recorded conversations between Socrates and other people. In fact, it is not even clear whether or not Socrates wrote down any personal work himself — though it seems likely that some sort of written record was kept.
In this way, Socrates’s teaching is one of more of a visual nature.
This method does not rely on reading alone; instead, it seeks to use words and speech in such a manner that the students are forced to think about what they read.
By thinking about the dialogues the student creates an open-ended dialogic relationship with Socrates, where they learn from one another through speaking together.
Socrates provides a model for teachers to learn from and it is clear to me that there are many aspects of human communication that can be improved by implementing better models for teaching.
I think this is the key to understanding how Socrates may continue to impact modern life.
Instead of teaching any particular set of doctrines, he teaches us a model for learning and thinking in which we are encouraged to reflect upon ourselves.
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