Learning Tip: Socrates and the six-year-old
By Susan Dichter
How can we build upon the capacity for reflection and inquiry that all kids possess? How do we raise kids that are turned on, not off?
One answer is found in the greatest teacher of them all—Socrates. Socrates often answered a question with another question. For example, when asked if virtue could be taught, he said he could not answer the question because he did not know what virtue was. What, asked the philosopher, is virtue?
Your six-year-old probably hasn't used the word "virtue" yet. But she has her own ideas about "bad" kids, "good" jokes, "beautiful" dolls, etc. When the occasion arises and she brings up that "bad" kid or "good" joke, why not explore what she means by "bad" or what makes a joke "good."
Every so often the Socratic approach is just right. Your child will delight in thinking things through, and what's more, she'll learn a crucial lesson: answers are neither simple nor final. They are always subject to reformulation—to more thinking!
Susan Dichter wears many hats—mother, writer, former teacher, museum director, and librarian; her books include Teachers: Straight Talk from the Trenches.
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