Spotlight On Socratic Seminar
Recently in Mrs.Loredo’s 8th grade period 8/9 English Language Arts class I, along with my fellow peers, have been working on our first Socratic Seminar. Socratic Seminars are discussions where students do research based on certain questions and then conduct discussions about it. There are two parts to a Socratic: preparation and discussion. We first prepared by reading articles, about twenty, but depending on the question students could conduct internet research or read literature to become educated on the topic to properly answer the question. After researching and taking a stance, we conduct discussion. The seating for discussion during socratic helps to provide a discussion that runs smoothly. We have a center table called the inner circle which is surrounded by an outer circle of desks. Everyone has a seat at the outer circle where they listen to discussions happening in the inner circle and remain silent. When you randomly get called into the inner circle to discuss what side you agree with, you present your point of view, evidence, and analysis for your evidence. The discussion is debate like, but things need to be logical and not become heated. After the discussion dies out in the inner circle, the outer circle can make comments regarding things said when the inner circle was discussing. After all the students have been called into the inner circle the entire class discusses. This is where things can easily become heated, and it is important for students to be respectful and not talk over one another. The socratic provides a very mature atmosphere like no other, where students can engage in a very educated discussion that is thought provoking and insightful.
The discussion question of the Socratic I just recently participated in featured the question: Based on current world conditions, should refugees be allowed into the US? We read twenty articles, ten for the allow side and ten for the not allow side. After reading the articles, I had a hard time deciding which side to pick. I consulted with Mrs.Loredo and she suggested I choose not allow, because not as many kids had picked that side. When I went back into the articles to find evidence for my thesis, I realized I was definitely on the losing side of the argument, since there was much more evidence for the contrary viewpoint. What I soon realized was that I could not use the argument of the actual national security threat that refugees posed to the US, because really, contrary to popular belief, they don't pose much of a national security threat. This is caused, by the fact that terrorists have no need to infiltrate the complex and timely refugee program, when it is much easier to obtain a 90 day visa and come here to commit terrorist attacks instead. Even though I realized I could not use this argument, I would not change my side. I had no intention of not taking this challenge and successfully making a valid point to counter the surplus of evidence the other side had for why refugees aren't dangerous and why they are not terrorists. Eventually, through critical thinking I found my angle. I figured that even though refugees don't pose an actual national security risk, they pose a theoretical one. I argued in my discussion that refugees cause people fear, and why are we taking people out of fear to put our own citizens in fear. I argued that our current world conditions (remember that was the first part of the discussion question) since 9/11 and how Europe is being infiltrated by terrorists disguised as refugees, which causes people to be fearful of refugees. If people don't want refugees coming into our country because they are afraid of them, shouldn't democracy reign on and the elected officials of the US honor the wishes of the people to feel safe in their home?
In conclusion, when reflecting upon the experience of my first Socratic Seminar, I felt I did well and I learned a lot. I can say the Socratic was insightful and honestly, in hindsight, (since I am no longer defending the point any longer), I picked the wrong side and my opinion has changed greatly, thanks to the insight the Socratic provided for me. I am definitely looking forward to the end of the second marking period, where we will take part in the next Socratic Seminar using the Shakespearean play we are reading. I will most definitely engage in writing another article about my second Socratic Seminar and my new viewpoints and opinion of Socratic in general, along with my opinions about the literature we will be using and my opinions about the discussion topics that are utilized in the second marking period´s Socratic Seminar. If you are a 5th, 6th, or 7th grader, I hope you take this article and really absorb the exposure and explanation of Socratic I have given to you to utilize some of it´s very mature concepts in your own discussions about controversial subjects, and to defend your viewpoint in a logical, intelligent manner in order to best provide insight to people who have contrary views to you.