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2017-11-02

My Bias - Achieving something more

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

There are times when the ground is so dry that the surface of the earth cracks and breaks into irregular sheets. When I was a kid, there were some summers when the cracks were so wide and deep that I was forced to walk slowly and carefully, and pay extra close attention to my step. These hard sheets of dirt reminded me of jigsaw puzzle pieces and weren’t at all like the clods of black-bottom earth created by a plow (that we kids lived to hurl at one another in our games of dirt-clod war).
One day, my dad, as if reading my mind, picked up a sheet of clay from the ground and we examined it together. We loaded several sheets about the size of dinner plates into the trunk of the car, took them home, soaked them in water and watched the material change over the course of several days. What is predictable to you and me now was pure discovery for me then: The once hard and brittle substance became — well, malleable as clay. (Years later, I learned that the French sculptor, Auguste Rodin, retrieved sheets of clay from the dry banks of riverbeds for his work. How cool is that?)
I think of that day at the farm with my Dad and then later in his shop playing with clay as possibly my first exposure to the Socratic method of learning and teaching — at least as far as my awareness of it goes. Working with one’s hands — building and visualizing something in three-dimensions —seems to stimulate critical thinking and encourages decision-making. Thankfully, my parents modeled this Socratic method of parenting, and never really deprived us of the opportunity to question things or to engage in a cooperative, purposeful argument.
As a parent, I unwittingly embraced and adopted this Socratic philosophy, too. One of my daughters spent hours whittling soap in the bathtub and the other played with 10-pound batches of homemade play dough. We spent countless hours building things together in sand, and exploring “something more” with our words.
Halloween was a welcome opportunity to carve pumpkins with my kids and other young people from all over the block. The activity was every bit as much about listening to and questioning things as it was about the end result of jack-o-lanterns, roasted papitas and pumpkin soup. The process of carving pumpkins, for me, was even better than consuming chocolate.
Last week, two dead tree trunks were transformed into “something more” by a man who whittled away at the surface with power tools. I’m a process person — so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed seeing his work on Day-1 and Day-2 as much as (if not more than) I value the finished product. And in this case, the process included the collaborative efforts and progress of ordinary people with ideas who communicated their intentions effectively to others who serve on various regulatory boards and councils. My hat goes off to all who worked together in a Socratic approach to achieve “something more.”