Inner and Outer Circles: Engaging and Observing
Last week we discussed various ways to talk about reading. Heading in to the session, I couldn’t really imagine how Socratic Seminars might work outside of a classroom environment. While I still think that they would likely do best/be most appropriate for that setting, our discussion made me think a lot more about how elements of Socratic discussion/seminars might help with book groups that exist beyond the classroom.
Although it seemed that the “inner circle” of discussion participants and the “outer circle” of discussion observers (who also provided feedback) was somewhat of a result of lots of students in one classroom, I kept trying to imagine that inner and outer circle applied to almost any discussion.
I like the idea that for a time, it’s one’s job to observe carefully and to contribute to the discussion by providing feedback on the dynamics of the discussion itself. Observation — a time to be less oriented towards jumping in “performing” in discussion, and engaging — that seems really valuable to balance against the actual discussion in the “inner circle.”
Of course, there is a switch between inner and outer circle, and then active and observer roles are flipped, but this gives people a chance to be in both roles and see where they might excel. It gives people a chance to explore different ways to add value to a larger discussion group.
Do you think that specific observer and “discussant” roles could be helpful in places other than in a Socratic Seminar?
Are there other areas in your life where “inner circle” and “outer circle” (and flipping those circles) are relevant?
Gender, Identity, and Who Book Clubs are “For”
The other significant idea from discussion that I’m still mulling over is that of book clubs-and-gender. In talking about book clubs, we came up against the idea that often the term “book club” is perceived as something particularly for women. We tried to pick apart just why this might be. Was it because way-back-when, book clubs were often ways for ladies-who-lunched and new moms to get out and about for some social interaction? Was it all because of darn Oprah? In class, men and women alike lamented that having an “Oprah’s Book Club” sticker on the front of their book made them feel like they had to defend the fact that they were reading the book because it was good, not just because Oprah said so! Do women just read more of the genres that are traditionally served by book clubs — things like fiction?
How can we (and should we) shift this perception? Are there ways we can go about making book discussion and talking about reading more accessible and comfortable for more people? And to the people who argue that men just don’t talk passionately about what they read — I’d invite them to visit a comic shop on a Wednesday to see the heated discussion that both men and women get into about latest issues of new comics!
Do you see book clubs are somewhat gendered? Are there ways to change this?
If you’re not or have never been a member of a reading discussion group — why haven’t you found them a good fit? Do you have any desire to talk about things that you read — from articles to comics to professional development-related materials, to novels?
Beyond just gender, do you see book clubs are just something “not for people like me”?