Bishop Jerome (c. 345 - 420 CE) was, among other accomplishments, the librarian of the Library of Alexandria, one of the wonders of the ancient world. Despite his elevation to sainthood, he reportedly lacked the proverbial patience associated with that character, insisting his students read, listen, and study in silence. Because of his influence, the discursive style of engaging ideas -- often called the Socratic Method, was upended, and we're still trying to shed the notion of ideas spread by an authority lecturing to passive recipients.

Okay. Like this blog.

In an email exchange last week, Matt Carter responded. Below is our correspondence captured in the form of a Socratic dialogue.

"The dialogues (of Socrates) are a form of 'dialectical' reasoning, a branch of logic focusing on reasoning in philosophical matters where absolute certainty may be unattainable but where truth is pursued to a high degree of probability." (James J. Murphy and Richard A. Katula, A Synoptic History of Classical Rhetoric. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2003)

True to form (Matt's and Socrates's,) Matt begins with questions. As the dialog unfolds, Matt presents a point of view that creates an identity challenge for me. My fragility shows up with the question: Are those people teachers?

Matt's response allows me to recognize my lingering attachment to an identity as knowledgeable authority. I'm trying on a view of myself as one who engages: an investor. Your thoughts?

Matt Carter Do you know Howard Gardner? Have you worked with him directly?

What do you think about this diagram of intelligence?

Francis Sopper To best understand it, take this set of boxes and conceive them of regions of the Everglades with recognizable distinctions but without any clear boundaries.

Matt Carter I heard him say in a podcast that teaching “synthesis” is a field to be born. I’d love to be involved in whatever that is gonna look like.

Francis Sopper

This is why I’m encouraging you. I think you’re heading there.

That synthesis will produce the ride in another’s consciousness.

Play is practice for life’s harder stuff.

Eenie, meenie, minee, moe: what four year olds learn from five year olds. An enormous amount of our learning doesn’t come from adults, it comes from older children.

Matt Carter

Yea, I am always frustrated that education language almost always centers on teaching as if that was how learning occurs, but really it is a very tiny narrow amount of learning that involves teaching.

I also really don’t like “self-taught” for that reason. It's an internalized form of a teaching-centric approach. The worst part about it is that teaching-centric approaches to learning often attract people who have the desire to be as you put, "virtue seeking” or something. It attracts those who want to know that their efforts are to credit somehow, and worse still, people who want to be seen as heroes and feel power.

The brain is designed to make its own predictions and test them. Maybe that’s kinda what synthesis is, and learning is an outcome.

Francis Sopper

Stay with this.

At the same time, there are people who know things and know how – craftspeople for example – and I want to learn from them.

And there are things I don’t know are possible until someone reveals it to me.

Are those people teachers?

Matt Carter

I hired a craftsman hourly to help me build a garage in my backyard into an apartment, and I learned an incredible amount about building. I don’t think he ever thought he was teaching me. I was just helping him help me. We became friends and I learned more from him in a forced few months than any other possible way because it was my project and I had the vision and goals and he had the experience.

You know many things that are possible that I don’t yet know. I am rapidly learning from engagement with you. Certainly revelation over time is the right description. Perhaps you understand that as you are teaching me, but the more narrowly we define that the more limited the scope would become.

I just would be more comfortable with the notion that those people are investors in something.

The intentional transfer of narrowly defined/refined skill is the best use of the concept of “teach” but it would probably fall into a GTD type model of a described and defined outcome of a project that could be crossed off once achieved, and seem like the more shorter and modular it can be the better.

Francis Sopper I think you just taught me to leave behind the word teach. We would be investors in each other. We’d likely have no idea of the full scope of either the investment or the return we got from it.

Matt Carter I have the hardest time adopting words and definitions that feel misleading or misused. It’s a very stubborn tendency, but the terms I accept affect my thinking very deeply. I think they clearly do for others too, but I don’t think they are aware of it. I’m a verbal supremacist and experience a bit of intrinsic pain with imprecise language. I just don’t like having errors in my operating system code. Imprecise is subjective here too, because written and cultural language is evolving not standardized, so there really is no right answer, but I’m interested in impacting the future of language, not being good at its past.


More on the power of questions: What am I missing? Learning from others; What are you curious about?

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