Home     Boris Menu

Socrates and Sidis
Leon Hansen

"Sidis' theories of basically providing all answers in advance offer an eminent alternative to the stifling dogmatic Socratic method." "A global higher level of education could be achieved by replacing the Socratic method with Dr. Sidis' method."

        "The character of a nation is moulded by the nature of its education."Dr. Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D. (1867-1923). Sadly, contemporary education is at an all-time low. Schools have no money for renovations, books or toilet paper. Financial cutbacks imposed on them by many who dislike learning lead to pupils further despising education. This contemptuous cycle was not triggered by school's insufficient funding but by the accepted teaching methods. The rhetorical cynicism found in the fallacious paradox known as the Socratic method is to be held responsible for education's downfall.

        The Socratic method is a way of teaching by asking. Indeed, it seems like an interesting theory and a thought-provoking paradoxsomething that may seem contradictory but may nevertheless be truebut, however, it is not. Firstly, the cynical nature implied by its rhetorical questioning has no association with education. Originally, the method was supposedly used to provoke thought by enquiring unanswerable questions. Though inspiring cerebration is good, the person examining in this fashion could never be wrong. Nowadays, the applied method primarily separates antiintellecutals from the seemingly gifted, or realistically those familiar with the material. The system does not provide any educational value since it can be outmaneuvered by someone knowledgeable in the topic. Worse, it contrarily seems to favor the pre-educated since they know what the method endeavors to abnegate themthe answer. However, when the method is practiced aplty, the purported autodidact will retain the procured knowledge forever. This is indeed beneficial but in effect erroneous since this approach unduly accedes guessing. As this is predominantly true the system fails to supply anything of instructional avail. As oxymoronic as the method seems, its bona fide discouragement of thought only causes utter detestation of learning.

        In practice, the defective method is unnecessarily time consuming and abusive of the learner's fears. For example, when someone is asked an exigent question abetted only by a "thinking guide," it will take gratuitously long before the answer is granted to him. The time wasted on introvertedly denying somebody an answer shows no educational relevance and could have been used more constructively by reading about the subject. During the process of withholding the answer to one question, someone could have found ten answers to ten questions. Furthermore, while the instructor callously deceives an infallible image of himself to his disciples, they only learn that authority is indubitable. The Socratic teacher's misanthropic use of egoistically superimposing his knowledge over his subjects causes their angst and defiance. Contumacy is vital since it allows individuals to toy with the dread of failing within the accepted intelligence standards of our post-Scientific Revolutionary society. Though Dr. Sidis' controversial essay Philistine and Genius primarily condemned corporeal punishment, similar fears as those caused by beating are still present in modern education. As a leading psychologist of his day, he suggested that any form of curiosity be encouraged instead of imperiously creating what he called "intellecutal cripples." However, his advocation that nobody is ever too young to learn anything is debatable. Sidis' theories of basically providing all answers in advance offer an eminent alternative to the stifling dogmatic Socratic method.

        Boris Sidis not only received Harvard's first ever Ph.D. (1898) and M.D. (1904) but most importantly nurtured mankind's greatest intellect through his methods. His son, William James Sidis, could learn a whole language in a day, was admitted to Harvard University at 11 and possessed an estimated I.Q. of 250-300. Though it is altercated to what extent Boris was responsible for his son's genius it is unambiguous that he played an important part. Despite a possible intellectual heredity, it is obvious that a society that was extremely confound of William Sidis' erudition could not cognize his father's magnum opus. Since William failed to produce anything perceived as ingenious during his lifetime, colleagues, employers and especially the press mocked him and blamed his father. The Sidis family was exposed to copious ignorance only because they were misunderstood. Indeed, William James Sidis accurately predicted anti-matter and black holes as early as 1925, and if people would learn to be more considerate (possibly through better education) we could truly benefit from talent. Finally, by setting Dr. Boris Sidis' methods as the educational standard, we may not create a world of William Sidises but could vastly ameliorate a global intellect. If everybody was cultivated under Sidis' caliber, prodigies would be considered less aberrational since the prevalent educational merit would proliferate. This would also help amalgamate sagacious with the more oafish and would therefore be of genuine educational value. A global higher level of education could be achieved by replacing the Socratic method with Dr. Sidis' method.

        Socrates' prestige comes from his questioning and criticism. He questioned all accepted values and said that his teachings were good because they forced people to think about their values. Therefore he should not be offended if anyone dares to criticize and question him, his values and especially his methods. Though his method's theory of provoking thought is indeed good, it is not the output of its practical use. How often has someone told you that it is stupid to even ask a question the person can't answer? By using Dr. Boris Sidis' methods almost everyone would be able to answer any question. An illiterate person won't learn how to read by staring at letters that look like shapes to him. He needs to be taught so he can eventually find answers. Anyone who thinks that education is not what it should or could be must take Dr. Sidis' ideas into consideration.


Home     Boris Menu