|We encourage Conversations in four ways:
- Conducting Socratic Conversations on the campus of Columbia University (first item below).
- Speaking on "The Joy and Power of Conversation" and related topics - www.RonaldGross.com.
- Consulting and Training on using
Conversation/Dialogue to improve performance in organizations,
especially for Strategic Planning, Creativity, Decision-Making,
and Collaborative Action (www.RonaldGross.com).
- Conducting the longest-running conversation group in
the U.S. (21 years) – the Socrates Salon at the public library in
Great Neck, New York.
|For dates and topics of upcoming Conversations, please check the home page. Announcements appear in the right hand column.
THE SOCRATIC CONVERSATIONS
at the Gottesman Libraries at Columbia University
spirit of Socrates is alive and well at the Gottesman Library at
Teachers College, Columbia University. Socratic
Conversations are held twice a month, conducted by Ronald Gross, author
of Socrates Way which has been translated into 22 languages including
Chinese, French, Japanese, Spanish. He also co-chairs the
University Seminar on Innovation in Education (www.columbiaseminar.org). The Socratic Conversations program is directed by Jennnifer Govan, assistant director of the Libraries.
The purposes of Socratic Conversations are to:
- stimulate thinking about important ideas and issues,
- enrich the intellectual atmosphere on campus,
- strengthen the sense of community, and
- model dialogue and discussion as ways to learn collaboratively and “construct knowledge.
| Topics of these Conversations have included
Creativity, Home, Holidays, Happiness, Traveling, Leadership, Love,
Truth, Money, Disabilities, Wisdom, Cheating, Katrina, Beauty,
Patriotism, Friendship, God, Luck, Media, Status, Rationality,
Consumerism, Food, Citizenship, and others.
Conversations have also been held concomitant with major events, conferences, and issues including:
- the launching of the Spike Lee LEVEES Curriculum
- Disabilities Awareness Week
- The International Symposium on African and Diasporic
- Languages and Education
- the Principal’s Academy
- the Noose incident
Global Education Equity Conference
the Satya Graha Forum, a series of events held
concomitant with Philip Glass’ opera about Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy
Commemorative events on campus on the 40th anniversary of the 1968 student protests
- Global Conversation Week, joining hundreds of groups in 140 countries discussing 10 key questions
More than 1,000 persons have attended one or more sessions. Attendance has ranged from 6 to 36, averaging 16.
Evaluations completed by participants have averaged an overall rating
of 4.87 (on a scale from 1 – 5) over 24 sessions, accompanied by highly
"You are keeping Socrates alive at the Library," says Prof. Robert
McClintock. Among other faculty and administrators who have attended
sessions are Professors Hope Leichter, Janice Robinson, Megan Laverty,
Margaret Crocco, Richard Keller, and Teachers College President Susan
The Conversations have helped to re-define the Libraries as a place for
intellectual and academic discussion, not just a study hall and
research center. Students are continually aware of the Conversations
via flyers, large posters, electronic bulletin board, participatory
flip-chart, listings, coverage in TC publications, etc.
The Conversations have impacted on academic learning, as evidenced by
several papers written by graduate students, either developing ideas
generated in a session (such as on “Ableism”), or reflecting on the
methodology (such as on “Connected Knowing”, a form of Transformative
Several participants have been impelled to convene conversations of
fellow-students; as one of them wrote: “We seem to study so much theory
and philosophy, and usually only discuss it within the academic
structure of the class (except in limited conversations amongst
friends). It is wonderful to have a larger conversation about some
things we can’t really touch on in class.”
The impact of the Conversations already extends beyond Teachers
College. The session on the Spike Lee curriculum was videotaped for use
in training teachers nationwide in using discussion methods. Teachers
and administrators from other institutions have visited the
Conversations as possible models for adoption, including Adelphi
University, New York City public schools, Hunter High School, Ramapo
College, All Soul’s Church, and the community-based Café Philos in New
York. The Conversations have been covered on ABOUT.com, the New York
Times-owned internet portal which is one of the top ten such sites, and
by the leading website on Conversation culture.
A qualitative evaluation of the Project conducted by Prof. Elizabeth
Cohn, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Columbia, concluded that:
“These Socratic Conversations foster the intellectual growth of
participants. They provoke fresh thinking about significant ideas and
issues. They exemplify the potential of collaborative learning via
dialogue. They enrich the cultural climate at TC.”