I’ve had a go at Bloom, Gagne and Kirkpatrick, so why not an earlier target?
The ‘Socratic method’ is often hailed as some sort of untouchable principle in education and training. It is hauled out whenever one is in need of a quick dose of politically correct ‘pedagogy’. Yet how many who claim to know this edict have actually read Socrates? Very few. In fact, he never wrote a word. We know him largely through Plato and Xenophon.
I am a huge admirer of the Socrates Dialogues but squirm when I hear his name heroically mentioned in educational discussions. Why?
The method is often summed up as the teacher being the ‘midwife to the learner’s thoughts’, teasing out self-generated conclusions from the learner. In practice, Socrates was a brutal bully, described by one pupil as a ‘predator which numbs its victims with an electric charge before darting in for the kill’.
Woodbridge described him as using, ‘Flattery, cajolery, insinuation, innuendo, sarcasm, feigned humility, personal idiosyncrasies, browbeating, insolence, anger, changing the subject when in difficulties, faulty analogies, telling stories which make one forget what the subject of the discussion was. His great joy was simply pulling people and ideas to pieces’.
So, before we utter those sacred words ‘Socratic method’ let’s remind ourselves of the real Socrates – the prolific pederast, spiteful, setting out to destroy rather than enlighten his pupils.