Laura Sandefer

December 27, 2014

The value of our Socratic discussions is revered at Acton Academy. It is the reason we don’t allow late-comers to join in the conversation – a damaging interruption to the flow of listening and thinking. These times of focused engagement, discussing ideas with respect and courage, are some of the most valuable learning moments in our day.
To ensure their quality, our Eagles write and enforce the Rules of Engagement for Socratic Discussions. This year’s rules are:

  1. Be on time and prepared.
  2. Be concise.
  3. Do not repeat points already made.
  4. Provide evidence and reasoning.
  5. Link to previous comments. (Use “I agree” or “I disagree.”)
  6. Listen with an open mind and consider new evidence.
  7. Focus and do not distract.

The Eagles are involved in the decision about the consequence for breaking a rule of engagement. Ask your child what the consequences are for breaking a rule. Ponder with him or her what it would be like if there were no consequences.
The next time an important family discussion looms large say, “Let’s use the Rules of Engagement for this.” Even better, say to your child, “Could you help us practice the discussion rules you use at school now?”
For us as a family, the norm is to throw all the discussion rules out the window and just have rip-roaring dinner conversations. At some point, though, the inevitable, “Can you be more concise?” arises from one of our boys – usually to me.
It is in this moment, I note the magic of boundaries to force critical thinking, creativity and ultimately kindness.

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