As Socrates wandered the Athenian market he observed and orated, pondered and questioned. His simple queries were met with polite responses--where could an old man like himself find bread? he might ask. Behind the veil of mundane basic needs and wants, he lured the people he met in the streets into deeper thoughts and contemplation with more probing questions. The method of Socratic inquiry, long the foundation of legal education, is taken to be somewhat harsh. Relentlessly and doggededly pursuing the interviewee with increasingly more pointed questions until at last they fall into the trap of poor logic or irrational thought. Ah ha! Gotcha! Rigorous as it may be, this style of inquiry is frowned upon in K-12 education. It alienates and confuses, intimidates and exhausts.
But within his determination to question was a deeper meaning: to discover truth and morality. Those principles are at the heart of Gently Socratic Inquiry, which steers away from the cross-examination format and instead "places much more emphasis on listening, thoughtfulness, silence, care and respect for the thoughts of others," writes Dr. Thomas Jackson, former Director of the Philosophy in the Schools Project. Jackson recommends a sort of team-building exercise to create trust and build respect for others' views while engaging in discussion. In his seminal article "The Art and Craft of Gently Socratic Inquiry" (2001) in Developing Minds, he focuses on teaching tolerance and civility amongst learners, and thus community.