Shame on us for not being rhetorical!

I nearly wept today, reading Brunetière’s essay, An Apology for Rhetoric for the first time ever. 

What richness of inner life have we lost through the way our thinking and educational system have progressed since he wrote? Shame on us. Shame. Shame. Shame! 

Two lines was all it took: 

…why may I not go to the length of saying that prosopopeia is to be answered only by hypotyposis and metonymy only by synechdoche? 

Not much to look at, I’ll grant you. Something to gloss over as being ‘too difficult’ nowadays, I’ll bet. Let me tell you why they had such an effect on me… 

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"I don't understand!"

“I don’t understand.”

Great! You are amazing!

It's not the answer you might expect, but it's the answer students in a Speech, Sense, Style session are likely to get.

Students understandably get tired, they get hungry, they get frustrated. And when they experience these things, they tend to shut down. It's not just them - I think we all do it.

So what should teachers do when students say, "I don't understand," but have clearly shown their ability to demonstrate their understanding and below the surface, they just seem to be blocking learning? 

It's not an easy one to answer - but to explore the territory, I engaged in an internal dialogue in an imagnary situation in which this happened. The context is a Speech, Sense, Style lesson, in which subject and predicate had been covered and all students had demonstrated the ability to state and give examples of simple and complex subjects and predicates in sentences of their own making.



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Perceptions of Reality and what is Really Real

I've been challenging myself and my thoughts through an engagement in dialogue with some fascinating thinkers - Alan Rayner, who writes about Natural Inclusion here, Jack Whitehead on YouTube here, David Pinto's thoughts on transformational economics here... to name but a few. 

In navigating these interesting and varied discourses, during a period when I was also digesting Wolfgang Iser's book, 'How to Do Theory', it struck me how much of the intellectual and academic arguments that theories are founded on are divorced from what I see as the 'natural inclusionality' of Aristotle's 10 categories of being...

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'If's and 'But's and what thoughts wear at night

In my last couple of blog posts, I’ve written about David Fisher and his work in developing a pragmatic approach to encouraging children to think. I also wrote, “...we believe teachers and students need to experience generating their own ideas to discuss. Effective frameworks for learning and teaching are great – as long as the content that’s generated using those frameworks is original. If both teachers and students don’t have at least one ‘Aha!’ moment a day, there’s something wrong.”

In his book, Teaching Thinking, David Fisher offers some really interesting examples of how this works for him in practice... through questioning... to develop imagination, autonomy, empathy, thinking ahead and beyond the immediate situation, being sensitive, developing and testing hypotheses, being able to justify standpoints, and examining ideals.

Anyone getting 9- to 10-year-old children to come up with questions such as, ‘What is a thought?’; ‘Where do thoughts come from?’ or ‘Does your brain talk to you or do you talk to your brain?’ is on to a good thing.

One of the frameworks he recommends is Matthew Lipman’s Philosophy for Children programme, a resource with lots of teachers’ aides and prompts. Fisher himself provides lots of facilitation questions as well, such as, ‘What do you mean by that?’; ‘Can you repeat that in your own words?’; ‘Can you give an example?’ ‘Do you know what we said a few moments ago?’ or ‘What question are we talking about?’ Much of the success of these questions depends on these being asked in an open-ended, non-judgemental way. Questions are presented in useful categories, with 25 possibilities given to help teachers direct a Socratic discussion.

I tried this approach out on my long-suffering 13-year daughter – I’d read up on the approach, decided to question her about thinking, taking a list of Lipman’s questions Fisher includes in his book as starting points. To my chagrin, I found I was so engrossed in trying to remember the questions, I’d lost sight of the point Fisher makes, quoting Plato – ‘Philosophy begins in wonder.’

I wondered at my own inadequacy and went back to the drawing board to try to understand what underlying framework would help me – and hopefully other teachers – generate meaningful questions naturally and spontaneously. Here's what happened...


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How to juggle with thoughts

I tried to learn to juggle once – I didn’t stick at it long enough to reach a level I was happy with, but I remember having to start off just holding the juggling balls, balancing one in each hand, feeling their weight, passing one from one hand to the other, and feeling the change. It was a slow, intense process, rather like starting out with juggling thoughts.

Before getting into formal logic, it’s useful to know there’s a roadmap for the way we instinctively think of the world around us. Aristotle was one of the first of the Greek thinkers to try to define not just the different ways we think about things (see my previous Blog post on The 10 Categories of Being), but the way we think about more than one of those thoughts, how we put them together. He came up with a basic scheme which Cicero later added to. Cicero ended up with 16 approaches. They’ve become known as the 16 Logical Topics of Invention.

Want to know where they come from? Read on...


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