Notes on the Socratic method

The Socratic Method

1.) Being a midwife to students’ ideas

Socrates in the Theaetetus speaks of being a “midwife” to the ideas of students. He sees the Socratic teacher as helping the student bring their idea to life and then once it is “birthed,” help them to determine whether the idea can live in the world or not. Socrates makes it clear that his role is not to put ideas into students’ minds but to help students “birth” them.

2.) Art of not having answers/ not seeking recognition 

The Socratic educator does not have answers. Socrates was famous for saying: “All I know is that I know nothing.” He did not seek credit for ideas, theories, inventions; his contribution was, again, to aid the “birthing process” in students. In the Socratic dialogues of Plato, readers are treated to a demonstration of how this birthing process works and how it benefits the student.

3.) Connection to parenting

A Socratic parent is someone who sees what their child is trying to say/solve and they help their child express it. In the Jewish tradition, this is seen in the Four Sons at the Passover Seder. The sons are tasked with each asking a question about the history of the seder and the basis of its customs. The youngest son does not yet have the language skills to ask a question entirely on his own. In that instance, the parent helps the child form the question by discovering what it is the child wants to know. This is one example of Socratic parenting.

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