Use & Abuse of Socrates in Teaching


  • Anthony G. Rud Purdue University



Context Effect, Educational Philosophy, Elementary Secondary Education, Higher Education, Irony, Philosophy, Teaching Methods


The Greek philosopher Socrates is used as an example of a master teacher in in many contexts, from elementary school discussions, to college philosophy classes, to law school. I examine a number of current uses of Socratic teaching, and expose inconsistencies among them. I analyze critically recent practitioners of Socratic teaching, such as Mortimer Adler, and I consider how the celebrated primary teacher Vivian Gussin Paley enacts the Socratic legacy in a novel way. I argue that the misuse, or abuse, of the Socratic legacy occurs chiefly when his teaching is interpreted narrowly as a pedagogical technique devoid of context and irony.


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Author Biography

Anthony G. Rud, Purdue University

Anthony Gordon Rud Jr. is associate dean, and associate professor of educational studies, in the School of Education at Purdue University. He received his A.B. with honors from Dartmouth College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Northwestern University. Rud is a founding member and former officer of the Association for Philosophy of Education, a former member of the Committee on International Relations of the American Educational Research Association and the Committee on Pre-College Instruction of the American Philosophical Association, and a senior associate of the Council for Basic Education. He has served as a consultant for school systems on leadership issues, critical thinking, moral education, and school reform, and for organizations as diverse as the National Paideia Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University, and the Department of Special Education at the University of South Florida. Rud came to Purdue from The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, where he served as Senior Fellow. He also has worked at Dartmouth College as an administrator, adjunct faculty member, and freshman advisor, and taught high school humanities and social studies. Rud's research interests center upon the intersection of the foundations of education and educational practice, with particular emphasis upon the preparation and professional development of teachers and educational leaders. Rud is senior editor and contributor to A Place for Teacher Renewal: Challenging the Intellect, Creating Educational Reform, published by Teachers College Press. The author of a number of articles and reviews, he regularly makes presentations at major professional conferences. Rud serves on the editorial boards of several academic and professional journals, and is the chair of the editorial board of Purdue University Press. He joins James W. Garrison as coeditor and contributor to a volume of essays entitled The Educational Conversation: Closing the Gap, published by the State University of New York Press in 1995. Rud lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with his wife Rita and daughter Rachel.




How to Cite

Rud, A. G. (1997). Use & Abuse of Socrates in Teaching. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 5, 20.