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Introduction To The Socratic Method

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Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D.
Socrates’ belief, shared by Ancient Africans who preceded him, was that children are born with knowledge already in their souls but they can not recall this knowledge without some help (Theory of Anamnesis). By interrogation, they are stimulated to remember truths latent in their souls. Socrates’ chief work was among Athenian youth, whom he felt called upon to conduct through love to a nobler moral life. Up to his time, starting with the Homeric period (c. 850 BC), the Greek adolescent beyond school age had received his advanced education by association with his elders in the “household.” In the course of this association the quality of adult citizenship and the techniques of political power were transmitted orally by the head men in the citizen body and by imitative practices.  However, Socrates’ approach was different in that he wanted to convince youth that living wisely and happily required being wise and honest for these were more important than riches or fame. The starting point for his Question/Answer approach was with their ignorance for the purpose of awakening a more comprehensive pursuit of knowledge.

With respect to struggling Black youth, I would like to do something similar as an introduction to getting them to think critically and rationally.

Unfortunately, as metaphorically being like “Heads of Lettuce inside a Vault” their situation is far more complicated and effective help must deal with their considerable past and present problems—to which they have accommodated inside their delusional world to the point of it being “normal”— before heading them into a promising future. To try to get them to leave where they are in order to pursue their Purpose in Life is to encounter an assortment of overwhelming forces. What there is to work with is that struggling Black youth have been in an atmosphere pertaining to beliefs about a Universal One High God and have seen, and even practiced, residuals of African Tradition. Enlarging on both has been used successfully by the Black Muslims on the homeless and convicts in prisoners.  This means with the proper help that even the most hardened criminally oriented Black person already has enough foundational knowledge to come to a right conclusion.

Where they originally got off track and headed in a self-defeating direction was by allowing some psychically traumatic belief to represent a defining moment which thereafter generated confusion of thought and a distortion of how to best handle their losses, their lacks, and/or their obstructions. Out of chronic rage and frustration they became “Heads of Lettuce inside a Vault.”

The question no one, including me, has ever been able to figure out is how to break into that vault and remove each “leaf” that prevents them from being on the right road. But that is no excuse not to try. Probably the best way to try is in stages. A proposal for Stage I is to start with a modification of the Socratic Method as a way to repeatedly hammer at the delusional vault. Only after the delusions are removed (Stage II) and the “leaves” are peeled away (Stage III) to the point of reconnecting

with their Real Selves (Stage IV) can one proceed to dealing with their ignorance on life-shaping and life-changing issues (Stage IV). Such dealings can only be done by a free mind. Then further preparation (Stage V) will allow them to realize their Purpose in Life (Stage VI) and to discover and develop those talents (Stage VII) which will enable them to serve their purpose as it was intended. Starting with the first

stage, Black male mentors who have experienced or seen what does and does not work can be very helpful in asking boys questions about what they are doing and leading them by questions and by responding to the Boys answers to examine good and bad consequences in order to get to a truth can use as a wedge to “get out of the box.”

website: www.jablifeskills.com

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