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No. 75 (April 2004)

A Larger Framework to Think In
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

More than ever, we can observe that we, in this ongoing inquiry we call Project Renaissance, have two specific needs —
  1. Controlled measurement studies of many of the individual techniques. Formal or pilot-level informal, we just need to ensure the technique being tested is executed correctly, and that enough variables are factored out so that the results will have some relation to what happened and why.

    In the past individuals and institutions have missed out on opportunities to run such studies, but in these days of the world-wide Internet communications we are bound to find schools or individual teachers who will make specific tests of specific techniques and to report the results.

  2. We also need to demonstrate what various of these procedures can do synergistically together. We are in the early stages of putting together an ongoing enrichment program for high school students. With luck, we'll have it up and running by autumn 2004; without luck we still are working to have it up and running in spring or summer 2005. These are the first steps of moving toward our goal of a Renaissance University.

Let's step back for a moment from the detail of the specific techniques, and look at more general aspects:  Think on the implications, and on what becomes possible, when every student in a classroom becomes a trained Socrates to his fellow students and to himself... and when each student gets to play that role in supportive settings like that of Dynamic Format, so that everyone gets this experience in depth and at length.

Breaking free and jumping to new heights
The magical photography of Elan Sun Star

Think of the potential when each student is drawing out him/herself and each other at length, in depth, in detail on his or her most subtle and meaningful awarenesses and perceptions, concerning the school topics taught and generally, taking full advantage of the active ingredients in Socratic Method that not even Socrates knew about, but which we recognize through modern psychology.

Consider the possibilities when even traditional Socratic Method consistently and historically produced high genius, and when even an hour of such an experience would normally be counted as one of Maslow's peak learning experiences, only this would be a full semester, a full year and beyond....

Think that one through for a minute.

What would you be like now if your whole schooling, or a significant portion of it, had been a frequent, nearly continuous being drawn out, in depth and detail, on your subtlest and most meaningful perceptions and awarenesses in context after context, topic after meaningful topic? You tell me how much of an improvement that would have been!

This side of situations where, in entire classrooms, every student is trained and guided in being Socrates to himself and each other, we are also developing plans to train parents and community volunteers to tutor students, tutoring mainly by Socratic listening. We won't get the controlled tested specific results that we would with #1 above, and we won't have the synergistic surge of #2 above, but should be able to accomplish much good at the source, in the students' personal support environment.

This is what creativity programs and conference events, whose techniques are essentially if mildly Socratic, unconsciously sense but have never been able to fully actualize. They did not even know their methods were Socratic (causing one to delve into one's own first-hand awarenesses, seeking to make response from what one discovers there), much less the principles and significance of that process.

And far beyond any classroom, in almost every activity and walk of life, so much more and better can be achieved.....

For example, in any profit-seeking corporation, suppose its decision-makers invested just a few hours a week in sitting down with each other, playing Socrates to each other, drawing each other out on their subtlest awarenesses regarding the firm, its circumstances and practices, problems and opportunities?

For example, a similar action by members of a scientific project or team.... Or community action groups, now given over to heated exchanges of second-hand opinions...?

We are not speaking of a mere few percentage points' gain here, even in areas of activity where any reported gain automatically is seen as an exaggerated claim. In a universe as rich and full of surprises as is ours, to the extent that we turn some attention from our second-hand "knowledge" to what we are actually perceiving, first hand, we open the windows on infinity.

Every human being, sufficiently drawn out upon his or her own first-hand awareness and perception, is a window on infinity.


Final note:   the ideal mix for the classroom is about one third didactic instruction to two-thirds Socratic. Short (5-minute) bursts of didactic are efficient for laying in some basic information and for setting groundrules.

Moreover, you want changes in classroom activity; but the actual learning, in any case, is mostly through what comes from the learners themselves and not from what is told to the learners.

Without (well-focused) interactive learning per Socratic method, in most didactic classrooms little gets learned, and that is what you see all around us today. More and better gets learned in due proportion to what you have as (well-focused) interactive, Socratic learning.

And in the boardroom you still need decisiveness and action, but you need to dig, from each other and from yourselves, those subtlest awarenesses relating to the well-being of the firm. Even in an authoritarian command structure, a general has his staff with whom he consults. He doesn't simply order:  lives are at stake.

Toward a world where people can actually hear (themselves and) each other and be heard, and toward all which that can mean...


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Win Wenger

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