The Socratic Method In Grade School? Yes

My principal once gave me grief about my use of the Socratic method with my students. Hey, Principal, you like apples? How 'bout these apples?
Scots primary pupils to learn philosophy in a bid to boost IQs and concentration

I think, therefore I am a primary pupil.

Primary schools across East Renfrewshire are adopting philosophy lessons as part of efforts to raise attainment.

The new project, called Wondering, has been developed in partnership with Dr Catherine McCall, a philosophy expert with Strathclyde University.

The lessons have already been trialled at secondary schools in the area and a version will be rolled out to the council's 24 primary schools by 2011.

Lessons encourage children to think about a variety of simple dilemmas to develop critical analysis and decision-making skills. The lessons are also designed to extend their concentration span.

Topics include bullying, making friends, wearing school uniform and making the school greener.

John Wilson, East Renfrewshire's director of education said: "Developing philosophical skills has a key role to play in boosting attainment and achievement in our schools and is more important than ever in an age in which pupils handle a great deal of information."

And Fiona Loudon, headteacher of Crookfur Primary School, which has trialled the programme, said: "Philosophy is having a very beneficial effect across the school. At a time when some claim the internet changes the way children think, we're relying on tried and tested philosophy to encourage and traditional thinking skills."

Philosophy has played an increasing role in schools in recent years.

The subject has already seen a revival at Higher, and last year it emerged that teaching primary school children philosophy and the thinking skills of Socrates resulted in a lasting gain in intelligence.

Clackmannanshire Council in Central Scotland pioneered the teaching of philosophical inquiry in primary schools when it introduced the subject in some of its most run-down areas six years ago.

An initial study carried out in 2003-04 showed that children aged five to 11 who were taught so-called "philosophical inquiry" showed intelligence gains of more than seven IQ points.

Another study showed that the gains were maintained years later, even in children who no longer had access to the programme.

On Friday, a group of Icelandic teachers will visit Crookfur Primary School, in Newton Mearns, to see P2 and P4 pupils taking part in the lessons.

Dr Catherine McCall said of teaching philosophy: "It helps children to develop inquiry, thinking and decision-making skills and also extends their concentration span, something that may be diminishing at present."
I tell people all the time that talking is important if you want to be able to communicate. Talking, asking, answering, thinking, dialogue, all of these contribute to thinking, literacy, and competence. Too many people never think, or ask, or answer. Staff meetings come to mind as one of the least thinky things teachers do.

I am confident that if we just spent the time teaching/talking with kids, they would learn a lot more than what some district-mandated curriculum can provide. Of course, this philosophical method can only work if teachers aren't morons. So, let those teachers who can, do!

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