Mortimer J. Adler, the philosopher and educator who worked to resurrect the ideal of the Socratic seminar and called for a rigorous academic curriculum for all students in “The Paideia Proposal,” died June 28 at his home in San Mateo, Calif. He was 98.
Mr. Adler and the other educators who worked on the proposal advocated three “columns,” or modes, of teaching and learning.
The first column is traditional didactic teaching. The second is “coaching,” or having teachers guide students as they learn by doing. The third—and most widely adopted—column calls for the use of Socratic seminars in the classroom.
While the proposal was met with some fanfare when it was published in 1983, it was slow to catch on.
Mr. Adler, a high school dropout, was denied a degree from Columbia College, now Columbia University, after refusing to take a swimming class, but went on to earn a doctorate from the school. He was a prolific author and helped launch the Great Books of the Western World series, published by Encyclopaedia Britannica.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2001 edition of Education Week