Monday, July 14, 2014

Tika & The Educating of Thomas Jefferson

Last May, I visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. (This life-size statue of him is at the Visitor's Center.) I have read many books and watched many TV specials on this man and continue to be intrigued with his life. One thing I learned about him that I did not know before was that in his youth, in Williamsburg, Virginia, and at the home of John Wythe, he was educated and tutored in "Socratic method of teaching and learning." Wanting to know just what this was, I asked Grandma Google (who knows everything) and found this in Wikipedia:

"The Socratic method of teaching and learning was named after the classical Greek philosopher, Socrates, and is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions, to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas. Socrates generally applied his method of examination to concepts that seem to lack any concrete definition; e.g., the key to moral concepts at the time, the virtues of piety, wisdom, temperance, courage and justice." 

That the Wythe house was Jefferson's classroom was evident. In the main rooms, the tables and shelves were populated with "things" to stimulate discussion, understanding and learning. Take this shell, for instance, which I photographed. Think of the discussions it occasioned! The guide to the Wythe house explained "that in this house curiosity was championed and all were familiar with the ancients..... Locke, Bacon, Newton, Socrates, Plutarck, etc. Ideas first presented by the ancients were discussed anew." And that's how Thomas Jefferson obtained much of his education. I was impressed. 

Tika was not impressed as I explained all this to her. "When is it time for Animal Planet?" she asked. 

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