Saturday, June 30, 2012

Applying Socratic Questions In Real Life

I don't want to be accused of poaching a good idea so I'm telling you from jump street that this post was inspired by David Straker's site, Changing Minds. Dude is deep into well of looking at the various forms of persuasion.

It was also inspired by some of the nuttiness about how we have discussions in America about very serious, complicated topics.The most recent set furor is about education.

The 2012 Texas Republican Platform does encode the belief system of many Americans. There is no point in denying it. The orginal text as printed and accepted by the convention is:
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
I am not making this stuff up or distorting the text. You can read or download the 23 page document here.

Now to be fair, when asked by Talking Points Memo the Communications director said that the inclusion of the critical thinking statement was a mistake but it was approved and cannot be corrected until 2014.

Like Janis Joplin said, break a little piece of my heart. Except this does not make me feel good. Which is why I like hanging out at sites like Changing Minds.

You know, a Texas school could probably get in trouble linking to that site. This joint is nine kinds of deep kind of place

But this is where Socrates comes in. There is a list of Socratic questions. Those of us that actively use critical thinking skills (or want to) can employ these questions to get at the deeper intent of a speaker's message.

Now you shouldn't waste time on the stupid, the ridiculous or the mean spirit nature of personal attacks. Cause stupid is a finite form. You can't argue a brick wall or a group of people determined to create a system of living drones.

But if you are in a discussion with a reasonable person and want to understand what is being said this is a good starting point.  You don't have to ask the questions out loud but it couldn't hurt.

The Questions:
  1. Why are you saying that? 
  2. What exactly does this mean? 
  3. How does this relate to what we have been talking about? 
  4. What is the nature of ...? 
  5. What do we already know about this? 
  6. Can you give me an example? 
  7. Are you saying?
  8. Can you rephrase that, please? 
So if you got some brain cells to spare you might want to read the full platform of the Texas GOP and then, at your own person risk and responsibility, apply the questions to what you have just read. 

This is not for the faint of heart. I gave up after question 1.  Many because it is too nice a day to be wasting time inside dealing with a fear generated document.

It is fear based based document. It is about power and control. Hell, it is always about fear, power and control when it comes to modern politics.

Just so you know, I have the hots for HOTS and I'm not letting it go. The rest of you come to your own conclusions unless you live in Texas.

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