Miloš Jeremić, a teacher of Philosophy for children and youngsters in Serbia, is with us today to tell us the story of how he engages with Socratic questioning (SQ). It’s only after having listened to the recording of our conversation that I realise that he engages with it constantly: he was using it with me right there in our conversation. Milos says important things in a joking way. He speaks in examples. He is truly a teacher.
Miloš started implementing elements of SQ in his teaching very progressively. He notices that since he’s started SQ sessions, he hears students adopting this kind of thinking by themselves and with others. Another practice he has initiated is philosophical counseling, which he offers to students from his class and to colleagues from the schools he is active in. With philosophical counseling he can help students who are experiencing difficulties writing essays or sometimes help them solve personal issues and dilemmas.
Why is Socratic Questioning and Critical Thinking (CT) a path for democracy? First, they create together the affordance for tackling controversial issues (you know… those hot issues that divide us, that make democratic processes stick and get stuck) and second, through engaging in SQ one learns how to improve dialogues, and even to empathically disagree (a phrase from Marta Vines Jimeno) with those we view as ‘the other’.
What’s the method? We have included a session plan at the end of this blog. For now, just a few major points.
- All of Miloš’ activities in SC and CT start with a controversial question that is meant to create a storm in the learners’ mind. For example I was in a training session when he asked :
“Would you still be you if you changed gender?”
- Persistence and humour are Miloš’ powerful tools to navigate the dialogue. His approach can be conducive to retreat into ‘offense’, and this happens, often… but Miloš’ questions are genuine, never for the show, and he doesn’t seem to mind being called impolite or being the object of learners’ anger.
- By questioning – and interrupting if the interlocutor(s) , “are you messing around” he helps participants explore the question while considering carefully its emotional, logical and ethical aspects.