Those of you who went to law school are familiar with the Socratic Method. A professor calls on a student, often at random, and starts asking, as opposed to lecturing, about a holding in a given case. Questions start broad and seemingly neutral, but then the questions get more pointed, with the professor increasingly challenging the student’s answers and assumptions until they damn nigh reach the breaking point. Then maybe the professor plays devil’s advocate or asks that you do the same. Maybe hypotheticals are offered and the student is then required to shift gears and respond to those. The key to it is that the student is very much on the spot and often uncomfortable. Personally, I hated it in law school as I suppose most students did, and that was the case even when I had done the reading and was prepared to answer questions in class.
But for all of its unpleasantness, I can’t help but admit that it’s a very powerful teaching tool. All of the law professors I now consider to have been the good ones used it, and none of the ones I consider to be the poor ones did. I remember more of the stuff I learned in Socratic classes and, truth be told, I think in those terms when I first encounter a new problem, be it in the law or otherwise.
I’m guessing that odradek at Let’s Go Tribe feels the same way, as he has applied the method — via Socrates himself — in assessing Indians’ perpetual prospect Adam Miller. As with law school, the process is somewhat uncomfortable, but the insights gained by having gone through it are invaluable.