WHAT ARE "CONVERSATIONS THAT MATTER ?"
There exists a serious need for “young and the old” people to associate in social, group discussion to exchange knowledge, opinions, and encouragement with each other.
While the primary focus of the group may be upon “intellectual” conversations of substantial depth, complexity, and relevance to everyday living, the overriding benefit of group participation may be the development of trusting interpersonal relationships that can ultimately lead to a balanced, holistic lifestyle for everyone.
A new program, called “Conversations That Matter,” is about the personal sharing of life stories between ELDERS and YOUNG ADULTS. The goal of these “conversations” is for each participant, young and old, to discover what we can offer each other at these two “points” on life’s path.
There is no objective yardstick for the “success” of “conversations that matter.”
It’s really all about MUTUAL CARING . . . and sharing . . . of our life experiences and personal lessons learned.
It is a life enhancing program, one that can be viewed only by a demonstration, over time, of new thought and behavioral systems by each group participant.
From a “pragmatic” level of discussion, participants are given the opportunity to discover possible answers to “bigger philosophical” questions such as
1. Who am I and what do I stand for?
2. What are the principles that I choose to live by?
3. How do I live with others and the environment?
4. How do I deal with “loss” including physical death?
5. How do I live in a world of constant change?
6. How does gender affect social roles, responsibilities, and relationships?
CRITICAL THINKING AND THE SOCRATIC METHOD
THE PROCESS OF CONVERSATIONS THAT MATTER
The basic model involves an overload of information
flowing into a human mind;
this information glut then must be “processed”
by some template structure;
culminating with a final practical decision made by an individual.
Conversations That Matter focuses on all aspects
of the above model
• It allows for the filtering of knowledge into the mind; an acquisitive process that balances excess with relevancy for decision making
• It focuses on the critical thinking process through the lens of a specific holistic lifestyle information model
• It stresses pragmatic output for decision making in daily life. The output can take the form of an opinion, conclusion, attitude, belief, and behavioral action.
Critical Thinking is the foundational process by which information is processed in the mind. The essential components of this process are
1. Conscious and reflective thought
2. Open minded and truth-seeking
3. Balanced rational and intuitive thinking
4. Focused on thorough evaluation of assumptions and alternatives
5. Experientially validated and personally chosen
Several excellent and practical books describe this process of thinking: Critical Thinking by Richard Paul and Linda Elder(2002), Asking The Right Questions by M.Neil Browne and Stuart Keeley(2010), and Teaching For Critical Thinking by Stephen Brookfield(2012).
This discussion process is defined in several books, Socrates Cafe: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy, by Christopher Phillips (2001), Socratic Circles, by Matt Copeland(2005), and The Art Of Socratic Questioning, by Richard Paul and Linda Elder(2007).
The Socratic dialogue process used in STEPPINGSTONES discussions is patterned after this type of philosophy that Socrates and other philosophers practiced in Athens in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.
He asked questions in order to make people think about their personal beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that they often “took for granted.”
The Socratic method of group dialogue is a way for everyone, young and old, to seek and find insights and truths “by their own lights.” Moreover, Socrates believed that we only discover what we as individuals truly think and feel about something is known by engaging in constructive and empathetic discourse with others.
This Socratic questioning method, called elenchus, is a form of self inquiry that reveals people to themselves. It enables a person not only to know themselves more truthfully, but also to work toward realizing one’s true human potential through an authentic self expression that also creates an environment of peace and cooperation.
The key maxim underlying this process is: "an unexamined life is not worth living." By encouraging children to talk about their daily activities, responsibilities, and relationships , these pragmatic concerns and issues serve as the "grist for the mill" in group discussion.
For example, discussion topics can vary from homework to chores, from sports to music, from science to philosophy, from sexuality to politics, from money to friends.
SOME KEY PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTIONS:
A Skeletal Outline
1. What is the "nature" of existence?
2. Why does your "existence" begin and end?
3. What is the purpose of your "existence?"
1. What is it that you can "know?"
2. "How" do you "know" what you know?
3. How "certain" are you about what you know?
1. What "truths" guide your daily "doing?"
2. How do you "choose" to live by them?
3. What are the "consequences" of your "doing?"