Tuesday, September 27, 2005

We're in exam mode already. These 3 days are for the JC1's study break and the 1st paper begins Thursday. Between the JC1 and JC2 tutors, there's been a sudden role reversal since last week, and now we (JC1 tutors) have the more flexible timetable.

I'm taking the time between student consultations to read Phillips' "6 Questions of Socrates." It's slow going because it's a book I'm consuming in small chunks at a time. Though I haven't even made it past the 1st chapter so far, I find the duscussion groups Phillips organizes (and then writes about) to be quite fascinating. From culture to culture, people to people, he gathers a class-sized group together and asks them for their views on virtue/justice/moderation/good/courage/piety and lets the group just trash it out amongst themselves. Sometimes he asks for further clarification or some other leading question, but most of the time, the group members bounce ideas amongst themselves.

What's fascinating for me is that the participants range from the elderly wisened to the pimply teenaged, and so far it's been the younger crowd that seems the most vocal. 16-18 year-olds talking about the highest of human ideals, truly believing what they say and yet listening with open ears and hearts and minds in order to learn more from what the others have to say. Whether they're Greek or Navajo or Japanese the young have something to say about being human and aiming for the highest standards of human excellence, and they are neither afraid nor embarrased to say it.

The "lesson" goes in many different directions in quite an unstructured manner. The "teacher" (Phillips) doesn't actually control the discussion as much as he helps the group to uncover truth for themselves. Phillips doesn't have any answers to offer anyway.He's more interested in stimulating and sometimes provoking his discussion group to respond to the discussion.

Perhaps our biggest problem is in underestimating our kids. We don't actually engage them at this level. We feel they aren't "ready" to discuss such issues with us. Sometimes we don't even feel we're ready to discuss it with them either. Hope we get over our prejudices fast. Wonder what our kids might say, given such an opportunity?

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