Updated Socrates

Plato presented philosophical arguments in the form of dialogues, which follow a question-answer format that focused on concrete examples of abstractions like justice. The goal was to test abstractions against the concrete examples to see if there was a discrepancy and therefore an adjustment that was needed in the interpretation of the abstraction. The dialogue would proceed in small steps, ruling out various competing possibilities until the truth was clear and the traditional interpretation of the abstraction was in rubble.

Plato’s principle agent was Socrates, the gadfly who stung those who championed venerable beliefs with penetrating questions and impudent displays of logic. His adversaries were sophists, members of a highly educated group who used canned arguments and rhetorical recitations to justify various practices and philosophical interpretations. Sophists were the mouthpiece for the establishment. Socrates was the champion of the truth, and for him, the truth was far more important than conventional wisdom.

We live in an age of modern sophists who reside in corporate structures and other large organizations. Possibly the greatest density of sophists is found in education, where some form of misconstrued abstractions support every aspect of the field from research to training teachers and creating new instructional programs. So the time seems right for Socrates to return to champion science and logic and to expose what another iconoclastic philosopher, David Hume, described as “sophistry and illusion.”

Socrates on Chicago's Failure

Chicago’s striving-reader research study (for grades 6-8) was the most expensive of its type ever conducted. It has a gold-standard design that incorporates random assignments of 61 schools and a long list of activities that emphasize  comprehension, vocabulary and extensive staff development. Socrates argues that Chicago did not disseminate information about this project because it was a complete failure and showed absolutlely no advantage over the comparison treatment... Go to article.


Socrates on Bussing

Socrates uses bussing as evidence that the logic used by decision makers is flawed.  His arguments show that decisions about where students are placed is not based on the performance of the students but on unrelated issues that result in students being unable to learn the material the school presents to them...Go to article.


Socrates on AYP and Social Justice

Socrates argues that expectations for gains in AYP are unachievable unless the schools cheat. The cheating however, leaves students with poor skill repertoires and little chance of actually learning math and language-arts skills...Go to article.


Socrates on Gold Standard Experiments

Socrates challenges the notion of gold standard studies on the grounds that they are not necessarily well designed and do not have an impressive track record ... Go to article.

Socrates on Teacher Training

An executive of a teacher-certification argues that teacher-training standards are reasonable. Socrates points out that setting high entry and graduation standards will not improve teacher education unless the teacher–training program has a tight focus on teaching teachers the technical skills mastered by the superior teacher...Go to article.


Socrates on Reading Mastery

Socrates argues that an effective beginning-reading programs cannot be created by simply providing instruction in broad categories like phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The teacher has never been trained in any of the technical skills needed to design effective instruction. Teachers therefore need to use programs that have been proven to be effective... Go to article.


Socrates on Program Adoptions

Socrates argues that the procedures for designing commercial reading programs is unenlightened and results in extensive teacher-student failure... Go to article.



© 2012 Siegfried Engelmann. All rights reserved.