Friday, June 8, 2007

To educe

The word today at A.Word.A.Day is one of my favorites:

educe (i-DOOS, i-DYOOS) verb tr.

1. To draw out; to elicit, as something latent.
2. To deduce.

[From Latin educere (to draw out), from ex- (out of) + ducere (to lead). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deuk- (to lead) that led to other words such as duke, conduct, educate, duct, wanton, and tug.]
When I see the word educe, I think of a passage from Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) that I've included on syllabi for some years now. This passage offers a terrific way to think about the possibilities of discussion in a classroom. Merton is writing about Mark Van Doren, one of his professors at Columbia:
Most of the time he asked questions. His questions were very good, and if you tried to answer them intelligently, you found yourself saying excellent things that you did not know you knew, and that you had not, in fact, known before. He had "educed" them from you by his question. His classes were literally "education" -- they brought things out of you, they made your mind produce its own explicit ideas.

comments: 1

Genevieve said...

If "drawing out" is what "education" really means, it makes me think that some of the various philosophies of education are actually philosophies of something else.