Readicide and the Use of the Socratic Model

What is “Readicide?”

While spending many years in education, Kelly Gallagher (2009) has observed many classrooms across the country and the teaching strategies that occur in each of these rooms.  During his observations he has discovered a destructive behavior that harms student learning rather than enhancing it – readicide.  Gallagher coined this term based off said observations and defines it as “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools” (p. 2). What he observed is that most educators are not challenging students enough with difficult texts, but rather are focusing on standardized testing and leaving them extremely unprepared for college and the ability to be critical thinkers as adults.  When it comes to sex education, should students really not have the ability to critically think about the decisions that they make?  If students are not prepared with a proper sex education, they are being unarmed about making healthy decisions that have lifelong consequences.  If they are not reading the material for their sex education class, they are doomed before they even get started with their adult lives.

Emphasis Placed on Testing and Not Learning

To help combat this problem, Gallagher implores educators to change their pedagogical techniques from placing emphasis on standardized test scores to focusing on enhancing student learning.  Looking at the cartoon on the right, it can be seen that the current educational system places way too much emphasis on the end result rather than what knowledge students have gained.  A multiple-choice exam does not accurately depict the knowledge students walk away with from the course.

Although sex education is not a core course in public education, it should still be treated as one.  If a teacher is lucky enough to have a textbook, it can be outdated or filled with scare-tactics, so teachers may feel the need to supplement additional worksheets to try to help students learn their lessons.  However, if emphasis is not placed on reading the information and teaching students how to go about reading challenging texts for sex education, it is a lost cause and students leave with little to no information gained.

When reading, framing the text is extremely helpful when approaching students with a challenging piece of text.  By reading a segment of the text with the students, the educator is able to provide necessary background information about a current health topic, the reproductive system, or whatever the lesson may be and place emphasis on the main idea, theme, or concept of the text.  This will allow students to hone their skills on the importance of what the text is conveying.  Another important factor to this change is to chunk the material, meaning break larger pieces of  challenging text into smaller, more manageable pieces which also helps readers focus their attention.  The remaining improvement to any pedagogical style is to have students do a close reading.  A close reading requires students to go back to the text multiple times in order to truly grasp the concept of the text.  Students will also be able to annotate or text code the text by underlining or highlighting important information, writing down questions or contradictions within the text, or writing down anything directly on the text that the student feels is imperative to the comprehension of the text.  By using these techniques, it places the emphasis of student learning in the hands of the students, making the educator a facilitator and the student empowered.

What is a Socratic Discussion?

By having students engaged in their own education, learning actually takes place because students are being held accountable and reading the context for the curriculum.  Being guided by the educator and forced to discover information on their own is known as a form of the Socratic Seminar Model.  According to Carjuzaa and Kellough (2013), the Socratic methodof questioning stems from the Athenian teacher Socrates stating that “Socrates’ strategy was to ask his students a series of leading questions that gradually snarled them up to the point where they had to look carefully at their own ideas and think rigorously for themselves” (p. 255).  If students are not reading the necessary material for a class because of readicide, then they are not able to understand the content in order to think rigorously for themselves; thus, learning does not take place and the consequences of risky behavior entail.  By using a Socratic discussion, emphasis is placed on the questioning and thinking that takes place rather than the answer (Carjuzza & Kellough 2013).  If emphasis is placed on multiple choice standardized testing, what learning really takes place?  Being able to think for themselves and understand deeper concepts is what will help students become life-long learners and make smarter choices when it comes to their sexual health.
To partake in a Socratic discussion, it is imperative to ask the right questions to the students.  Estes, Mintz, and Gunter (2011)  focus on Bloom’s taxonomy and Paul’s Taxonomy of Socratic Questions.  To start, step one is to choose the text.  This is where Gallagher would insist on using a more challenging text in order to promote higher order of thinking skills.  Step two is to plan and cluster several questions of varying cognitive demand, similar to the chunking  mentioned above.  Step three is to introduce the model to the students by explaining that this discussion is led by students and the job of the educator is merely to guide them.  This is where annotating and rereading the text multiple times will be beneficial.  Conducting the actual discussion about the text is step number four, concluding with reflection of the discussion and learning that takes place (Estes, Mintz, & Gunter).
In order to challenge student growth and development, educators must change their pedagogical ways.  If students are not able to think for themselves now, think of what society could be like when it is their turn to run the world.  It would be a complete dystopian society, a modern day The Walking Dead.

Estes, T. H., Mintz, S. L., & Gunter, M. A. (2011). Instruction: A models approach. (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Carjuzaa, J., & Kellough, R. D. (2013). Teaching in the middle and secondary school. (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Gallagher, K. (2009). How schools are killing readicide and what you can do about it: Readicide. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

One response to “Readicide and the Use of the Socratic Model

  1. Great post, openecho80! I have learned much through the Socratic seminar and really value this type of education. I appreciate the clear way that you laid it out as well as the links you provided. Questions are super important and can totally facilitate learning.

    It also seems that testing is really viewed negatively in this post. I totally understand the perils of teaching to standards and the lack of educational variety of assessment it carries. However, with your reference to theories like chunking, it seems that you must also know of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. There are certainly students who can benefit from a test in, say, biology or human reproductive physiology. While Socratic seminar is great, it is also not the best tool all the time. But this post, on the other hand, is a great post ALL the time 🙂

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