# I hate the Socratic Method

#### cuteprincess

##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2005, 09:36:55 AM »
I know...it's like the teacher will drill and drill you until you come up with the "exact term".  My torts professor is like that, if you can't get the issues and what the case is trying to teach you, he'd keep drilling you.  He'd talk about case for a bit and make you do the next case until you get it right.  I mean, one person had to stand up and muddle through the case for almost 40 minutes.  I'm sure he did like 2 cases in a row.

My torts professor said, "I don't teach you the black letter law in here, you are suppose to learn that on your own. I teach you to issue spot."

From all the reading of the cases, when do I even have time to learn the black letter law cold?  Make no sense.

Give me less cases to read and "maybe" I'll have time to actually teach myself the solid law.  Not enough time in the day.

#### chaser

##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2005, 02:42:52 PM »
"I don't teach black letter law in here..."

You can almost guess what the guy's test is going to ask for--100%, rote cold memorization of black-letter law!

Why?  At the end of the semester, he's going to say, "Holy crap!  I'm sending these people out to be lawyers..."

#### cuteprincess

##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2005, 12:32:35 PM »
I totally agree with you.  They should teach us the black letter law too instead of this discussions... listening to students who don't know what they are talking about try to act smart.  I want to hear what the professor has to say to know that what I'm hearing is actually correct.

#### jacy85

• 6642
##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2005, 01:19:34 PM »
Since when is finding/learning black letter law hard?  Why does it need to be taught?  It's in the cases, but you have to put the time in and read them to distill it.

You still can't find it, or don't really have the time?  Get a commerical outline or an good outline from a 2 or 3L.  Or the nutshell series.  Or any other of the numerous supplements out there.

#### Todd

##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2005, 01:22:43 PM »
I totally agree with you.  They should teach us the black letter law too instead of this discussions... listening to students who don't know what they are talking about try to act smart.  I want to hear what the professor has to say to know that what I'm hearing is actually correct.

The problem with teaching the "black letter law" is that it changes and it's impossible to teach all of it. Sure you must know it for the exam (which is all that matters to us students), but when you get to be a lawyer you must know how to find the black letter law on your own. At least you don't have to find the cases and statutes that make up the black letter law. In the real world it takes hours just to determine what cases and statutes need to be analyzed for a given question of law, frankly the analysis is simple compared to the research decisions.

#### T. Durden

• 468
##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2005, 03:17:24 PM »
seems to me the usefulness of the socratic method is largely professor dependent. my crim professor, for example, will call on one student and ask him to recite every single idiosyncratic detail (step-wise) from the case. as we're all bright-eyed bushy-tailed first year law students, we have caught on very quickly and subsequently spend a lot of time briefing those cases, making sure every single idiosyncratic detail that we know the professor is going to ask about is accessible.

is this helpful or educational? not in the least

as soon as someone other than me gets called on, IM goes on and up comes internet explorer...

my civ pro professor, on the other hand, asks very difficult questions that by and large, no matter no long you spend briefing the cases, you're generally not going to readily get. though it is confusing at times, and undoubtedly uncomfortable for the poor sloth attempting to answer the cryptic questions, they are always purpose directed, arriving a meaningful "conclusion" - you can almost hear the class let out a collective "ah ha" when the professor makes his intent known.

at least in some regard it is educational (though i have yet to be called on in that class, my opinion will be probably change when it's me attempting to answer his vague impossibilities)

but yeah, i'm pretty sure i hate the socratic method as well

#### Afterburne

##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2005, 02:08:52 AM »
At its best, the socratic method is a tedious exercise in the obvious.  At its worst, it is humiliating, anxiety inducing and counterproductive.  God forbid one of the day's targets should be unprepared...

Professors could make the process better by focusing on relevant material.  If a question seems pointless, the prof should at least make us aware of WHY they are asking it.  Furthermore, there isn't a lotta benefit to grilling students who aren't able to participate, questioning the obvious or grilling a single person for more than a single case.

I've already had a terrible experience with one professor who regularly stumped me within a few questions.  I consistently looked unprepared, sounded meek and felt ashamed.  I asked what I was failing to understand that caused me to discard the facts in question, and was told that the questions were "just to see how closely I'd read".  It is unfortunate that I had expected more than a trivia contest when I briefed the night before.

#### {}{}

##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2005, 04:34:00 PM »
seems to me the usefulness of the socratic method is largely professor dependent. my crim professor, for example, will call on one student and ask him to recite every single idiosyncratic detail (step-wise) from the case. as we're all bright-eyed bushy-tailed first year law students, we have caught on very quickly and subsequently spend a lot of time briefing those cases, making sure every single idiosyncratic detail that we know the professor is going to ask about is accessible.

is this helpful or educational? not in the least

You have every right to hate the Socratic method. As a matter of law, Socrates was nothing else but a despicable pederast who was put to death for that!

http://www.lawschooldiscussion.org/prelaw/index.php/topic,26494.msg810072.html#msg810072

#### l-I

##### Re: I hate the Socratic Method
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2005, 11:43:01 AM »
seems to me the usefulness of the socratic method is largely professor dependent. my crim professor, for example, will call on one student and ask him to recite every single idiosyncratic detail (step-wise) from the case. as we're all bright-eyed bushy-tailed first year law students, we have caught on very quickly and subsequently spend a lot of time briefing those cases, making sure every single idiosyncratic detail that we know the professor is going to ask about is accessible.

is this helpful or educational? not in the least

You have every right to hate the Socratic method. As a matter of law, Socrates was nothing else but a despicable pederast who was put to death for that!

http://www.lawschooldiscussion.org/prelaw/index.php/topic,26494.msg810072.html#msg810072

OMG, we did not know Socrates was a  m u t h a @ # ! * i n g    f a g!

#### obviously

##### Socratic method
« Reply #19 on: November 30, 2005, 06:58:30 AM »
Since my baby was featured in it I've made this source my bible

The Socratic Method
-------------------

The founder of the Socratic philosophy was Socrates (obviously! He was born in Athens in 469 BCE. He would discuss things with people by only asking them questions. Most of what is known about him comes from the writings of two of his students, Xenophon and Plato. Socrates used logical tricks just like the Sophists, but unlike the Sophists he was always worried about finding the truth. He was eventually convicted for poisoning the minds of young Athenians. He was given a cup of Hemlock, which he willingly drank.

Method

The Socratic method is a negative method of hypotheses elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those which lead to contradictions. The method of Socrates is a search for the underlying hypotheses, assumptions, or axioms, which may unconsciously shape one's opinion, and to make them the subject of scrutiny, to determine their consistency with other beliefs. The basic form is a series of questions formulated as tests of logic and fact intended to help a person or group discover their beliefs about some topic, exploring the definitions or logoi (singular logos), seeking to characterise the general characteristics shared by various particular instances. To the extent to which this method is designed to bring out definitions implicit in the interlocutors' beliefs, or to help them further their understanding, it was called the method of maieutics. Aristotle attributed to Socrates the discovery of the method of definition and induction, which he regarded as the essence of the scientific method. Oddly, however, Aristotle also claimed that this method is not suitable for ethics.

Practice

A skillful teacher can teach students to think for themselves using this method. This is the only classic method of teaching that was designed to create genuinely autonomous thinkers. There are some crucial principles to this form of teaching:

- The teacher and student must agree on the topic of instruction.
- The student must agree to attempt to answer questions from the teacher.
- The teacher and student must be willing to accept any correctly-reasoned answer. That is, the reasoning process must be considered more important than facts.
The teacher's questions must expose errors in the students' reasoning or beliefs. That is, the teacher must reason more quickly and correctly than the student, and discover errors in the students' reasoning, and then formulate a question that the students cannot answer except by a correct reasoning process. To perform this service, the teacher must be very quick-thinking about the classic errors in reasoning.
- If the teacher makes an error of logic or fact, it is acceptable for a student to correct the teacher.

Since a discussion is not a dialogue, it is not a proper medium for the Socratic method. However, it is helpful -- if second best -- if the teacher is able to lead a group of students in a discussion. This is not always possible in situations that require the teacher to evaluate students, but it is preferable pedagogically, because it encourages the students to reason rather than appeal to authority.

More loosely, one can label any process of thorough-going questioning in a dialogue as an instance of the Socratic method.

Application

Socrates generally applied his method of examination to concepts that seem to lack any concrete definition; e.g., the key moral concepts at the time, the virtues of piety, wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Such an examination challenged the implicit moral beliefs of the interlocutors, bringing out inadequacies and inconsistencies in their beliefs, and usually resulting in puzzlement known as aporia. In view of such inadequacies, Socrates himself professed his ignorance, but others still claimed to have knowledge. Socrates believed that his awareness of his ignorance made him wiser than those who, though ignorant, still claimed knowledge. Although this belief seems paradoxical at first glance, it in fact allowed Socrates to discover his own errors where others might assume they were correct. This claim was known by the anecdote of the Delphic oracular pronouncement that Socrates was the wisest of all men.

Socrates used this claim of wisdom as the basis of his moral exhortation. Accordingly, he claimed that the chief goodness consists in the caring of the soul concerned with moral truth and moral understanding, that "wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the state", and that "life without examination [dialogue] is not worth living". It is with this in mind that the Socratic Method is employed.

The motive for the modern usage of this method and Socrates' use are not necessarily equivalent. Socrates rarely used the method to actually develop consistent theories, instead using myth to explain them. The Parmenides shows Parmenides using the Socratic method to point out the flaws in the Platonic theory of the Forms, as presented by Socrates; it is not the only dialogue in which theories normally expounded by Plato/Socrates are broken down through dialectic. Instead of arriving at answers, the method was used to break down the theories we hold, to go "beyond" the axioms and postulates we take for granted. Therefore, myth and the Socratic method are not meant by Plato to be incompatible; they have different purposes, and are often described as the "left hand" and "right hand" paths to the good and wisdom.

Typical Application in Legal Education

Socratic method is widely used in contemporary legal education by many law schools in the United States. In a typical class setting, the professor asks a question and calls on a student who may or may not have volunteered an answer. The student's answer stimulates other students to offer their own views, thus generating a wide range of opinions and exposing the strengths and weaknesses of each.

The answers usually become increasingly refined as each is built upon the previous ones. Then the professor moves on to the next question, often without authoritatively answering the first one, and so on. It is important to understand that typically there is more than one "correct" answer, and more often, no clear answer at all. The primary goal of Socratic method in law schools is not to answer usually unanswerable questions, but to explore the contours of often difficult legal issues and to teach students the critical thinking skills they will need as lawyers.

The class usually ends with a quick discussion of doctrinal foundations (legal rules) to anchor the students in contemporary legal understanding of an issue. For this method to work, the students are expected to be prepared for class in advance by reading the assigned materials