What the seasoned professors spent their careers developing and expositing for us in lecture never proved as compelling as the wisdom found through the verbal wrestling matches with my fellow yahoo peers around the ping-pong table.
Though I know my professors would be better men if they played more ping-pong, I am even more convinced they would find their students far more convinced if their classroom environment resembled the platonic dialogues rather than political oratory.
Socratic education is built on dialectic— or simply the process of talking things through. I remember very little that I learned in lecture setting, but what I discussed with others in the vigorous interchange of ideas, rarely was forgotten.
Good teachers are not paid to listen to themselves talk; rather, the real money should be reserved for those who can get their students talking intelligently. Though teachers should be able to explain a subject well, it can be a self-indulgent pleasure to simply explain in detail the knowledge that one has acquired before a group of captive students.
The importance of discussion seems all the more obvious in our day when inexpensive books and widely distributed video lectures on the Internet provides a fine alternative to classroom lectures. For $120 a year, the www.thegreatcoursesplus.com will sell me 8000 very fine lectures— why I would use my classroom time to lecture to my students needs a careful justification. I have been glad to see how many good lectures are available on the internet now so that valuable class time can emphasize discussion.
Though it is the goal of a good teacher to help students to the point where they are able to carry the discussion in class, it takes time to bring them to the maturity level to be able to do so profitably, particularly when class focuses on ancient literature that is far outside of the students’ native cultural understanding.