Conversation is the lifeblood of the Thomas Aquinas College education. In the classroom, no more than 20 students sit around a table with their peers and with a faculty tutor as a guide, and together they grapple with the greatest works of Western civilization. There are no lectures, no didactic discourses, no simple regurgitation of others’ conclusions. Instead, ideas are proposed, rebutted, and defended, until, through discussion and critical argumentation, the class discerns the meaning of a given text and, more important, its veracity or error. The truth is found by way of the conversation.
This is the Discussion Method, also called the Socratic Method after the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, who would engage his students with questions and dialogue. Because the class is small, the tutor is able to determine each student’s progress, and students have ample occasion to make their difficulties known. There is a true meeting of the minds.
The Discussion Method demands that students come to class well prepared. Compelling them to think out their arguments in advance and to answer their peers’ questions and counter-arguments, it sharpens their powers of reason, analysis, and articulation. It thus provides them with fundamental skills necessary for success in any discipline or profession.