Recently my now newly minted 10-year-old daughter Cali and I had a dialogue about experiences, which we filmed and put on our nonprofit Youtube channel as well as on our Facebook Socrates Cafe page (just go to this link and scroll down).
As with most of our Socratic give-and-takes, the questions Cali and I explore emerge spontaneously. In this case, Cali and I were spending some quality time together, just the two of us, and Cali said, “Daddy, let’s sit down and share experiences.”
I asked her what she meant.
“Let’s talk about some of the things we’ve done recently.”
So we did just that. Located a park bench and sat down and shared. I told Cali one of the coolest things we did recently was at her initiative — we arrived in Mexico City after heavy travels, and though it was late at night, she still had lots of energy. She said to the rest of the Phillips family, after we checked into our hotel, “Let’s go out and take a tour. I’ll be your guide.”
We were game. It was a tour like no other. Cali didn’t take us around the tour hotspots. Rather, she led us to a clothing store, a pharmacy, a bakery, and thoroughly showed us around everything. I can say without hesitation it was the most memorable and special tour I’ve ever been on.
From that emerged our dialogue about experiences — the dialogues I hold with her are among the experiences I treasure most in life. I learn so much from my child, if I listen carefully enough, and am open enough. The best experiences often tend to be the most unexpected, and have an element of ‘serendipity’ to them as we take unknown paths from time to time.
The pragmatist philosopher John Dewey wrote a lot of insightful material about experience and education — most of it still relevant and far more accessible and germane than most of what’s written these days by academic and scholastic philosopher-professors — and about his philosophy of experience. What needs to be emphasized ever more than ever to us adults is that some of the best experiences we can ever, well, experience are when we are genuinely open to the novel and surprising insights from children when we engage in novel, expansive, methodical yet open-ended inquiry with them (the way I do with is via the ‘Socrates Cafe method‘) — and when we actually engage with them as equals. My dialogues with my daughters, and countless thousands of other children the world over in the last two decades, have enriched and enhanced my personal horizons, and my professional work, including my scholarship.
Try it. Inquire with them as fellow perplexed and curious human beings. As equals. You’ll like it.