The Socratic Method
I, and I’d imagine, quite a few on this site, went to university in those long distant years ago when it used to be place of learning and having great fun. I certainly look back at my time at uni (I want to Auckland University back in the late 70s/early 80s) with great fondness and nostalgia.
Today I doubt very much if I could have put with, or tolerate the absolute wokeness and atmosphere where learning and training your mind become secondary to virtue signalling and ignorance.
There have been numerous films about university life, many tend to focus on the comedic element of the sexual escapades of male students but a few have attempted to be a bit more serious.
My favourite is the splendid 1973 drama The Paper Chase, written and directed by James Bridges and starring Timothy Bottoms as James T. Hart who starts his first year at Harvard Law School in a contract law course featuring Professor Charles Kingsfield, where in his first class, he experiences brutal humiliation from Professor Kingsfield:
Professor Kingsfield is marvellously played by John Houseman who previously was more well-know as a theatre producer (he was heavily involved with Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre in the 1930s). He absolutely dominates every scene he appears in, in a performance that deservedly won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Professor Kingsfield then explains to the students that he uses the Socratic method in his classes:
After being invited to join a study group, Hart eventually finds the courage to answer questions from Kingsfield:
Hart then finds romance with a woman who turns out to be Kingsfield’s daughter, although the film never uses this as a ruse to flesh out Professor Kingsfield who remains aloof and distant throughout the movie making the character mysterious and impenetrable.
The pressure mounts, as the course nears its end in the first year, which gets to everyone and Hart eventually is rude to Kingsfield in class:
The film ends with Hart at the beach with his girlfriend where he makes a paper airplane out of the unopened letter containing his grades and then sending it sailing into the ocean. The viewer has learnt beforehand that Hart’s grade in contract law was a 93, an A.
This is a film that is no longer made today i.e. a smart and intelligent drama made for adults with interesting characters.
It paints life at university that rings true in the pressures the students face whilst also detailing the challenges of learning and enjoying life. It’s a film I always enjoy coming back to again and again.