The prevailing wisdom is that enlightenment may best be reached through argy-bargy. And yet in practice how infrequent it is, on television or radio, that the Socratic equivalent of men's tennis - massive slams hit back and forth from the baseline - actually illuminates anything at all. Panels are even worse. Taking part frustrates me as much as listening. What's the point? Why attend a forum in which as soon as anyone says anything interesting, somebody else has at once to be encouraged to interrupt, supposedly to generate conflict, but more often to dispel the energy of the previous speaker?
And picture the law school classroom. The conventional wisdom is that properly conducted classes are Socratic or at least "discussion." We think that if we can get everybody arguing with each other, it's just great.
(By the way, I love the word "argy-bargy." I've got to use that more... I mean, for the first time.)
When one person speaks and is encouraged to develop his or her ideas, then it is we, the audience, who provide the challenge.... In each of our hearts and minds, we absorb, judge and come to our own conclusions. The dialectic is, thankfully, not between a group of equally ignorant people thrashing out a series of arbitrary subjects about which they know little and care less. It is between an informed individual who, we hope, has thought long and hard about their own area of specialisation, and an audience which is ready honestly to assess what the speaker has to say.Hmmm... so, do you want to hear more lectures? Should more of the law school classroom experience be listening to lecturing? Or should we stick with the argy-bargy?