Socratic Thinking - Who Is Edward Snowden?

Socratic thinking, the act of questioning everything to arrive at the truth, seems to be in short supply in a high school education. In our homeschooling, we talk daily about current events, but our interest has been peaked by the Edward Snowden saga.

Because a whistle-blower against the United States government is a big event, there has been a great deal of news coverage about Snowden. 

Additionally, since this story will be covered to its logical conclusion, it makes the event easier to follow for our Socratic thinking purposes.

Photograph: The Guardian/AFP/Getty Images

Columnists are writing daily about Snowden, so it was difficult to choose one article. However, one in particular peaked our family’s interest in our Socratic thinking lesson.  Jon Rappoport, a decidedly independent, investigative journalist for 30 years, has written an article questioning the authenticity of NOT the leaked information, but of Snowden himself.      

So That Leads to Our First Socratic Question...


  • Why did I choose this article from all the possible articles on Snowden? (#6 questioning the question.)

I earned a bachelor’s in journalism in 1977 during the Watergate era, so when I noticed Rappoport’s article and read his credentials, I wanted to share his unique perspective with my sons.

In short, Rappoport’s article offers comments on a different aspect of Snowden’s saga (#4 exploring different perspective) from the numerous “hero/traitor” articles, but ultimately I admit to a bias that I will probably believe what he writes.

I’ll link below to the article, but basically, Rappoport believes the information about the NSA spying is accurate, but the primary thrust of his blog is that Snowden is a CIA operative tasked with embarrassing the NSA.

Rappaport questions some of the details about Snowden’s background and the plausibility of some of the events leading up to his acquiring the NSA information. Basically, it is the idea that once CIA, always CIA.

Socratic Thinking Applied...

  •  Is it believable that it was so simple to access and remove information from the NSA (#2 probing assumptions)?
  •  Is it possible or even probable that Snowden was given the already stolen information by the CIA (#4 exploring implications)?
  •   If the NSA spies on average citizens, could they also have spied on congressmen (#2 probing /posing assumptions)?
  • Is that the reason why Congress hasn’t called for any investigation into NSA  (#4 consequences and implications of actions or inactions by others)?
  •  Is it possible or probable that the Congressmen who have called Snowden a traitor know that this is an “inside job” (#2 assumptions, questioning assumptions)?
  •   If Snowden isn’t a hero in the truest sense, did he provide a service to the country? What should we think of people like Snowden (#4 exploring consequences and implications)?

CIA-NSA Turf Wars

Next, while many Americans are reeling about this massive and warrantless encroachment into citizen’s lives, Rappoport believes that this is an example of an inter-agency turf war between the CIA and the NSA.

Earlier this year in April 2013 Congress increased the NSA’s budget by almost $1 billion and has cut the CIA´s and other agencies by similar amounts, so it's NSA in, CIA, out. 

If you were the CIA, would you put up with this without a fight?

The CIA is simply trying to regain financial standing by exposing the NSA’s privacy assault on the American public. That doesn’t mean that the CIA isn’t guilty of equally outrageous surveillance, but they didn’t get caught this time. Money is power and the CIA isn’t going to lose its financing without a “fight."

  •  Is it believable that turf wars exist? (#2 posing assumptions)
  • Are they often this transparent or noticeable (#3 evidence)?
  • Can you think of any evidence or other examples of this happening in government (#3 evidence)?
  • Where or how do you think Rappaport learned to interpret these events (#6 questioning the question)?
  • Why is money power (#6 questioning the question)?

Passports, Airports, and Asylum?

Finally, since Snowden’s passport has been revoked, he is stuck in the Russian airport until he gets asylum from Russia, another country, or is returned to the United States. Therefore, we have to ask these  questions:

  • What does it mean to have one’s passport revoked (#1 clarification)?
  •  What consequences will that have for him (#2 evidence)?What could be the consequences for Russia (#4 exploring implications and consequences)? 
  • What means are available for getting Snowden back to the US (#3 evidence)? 
  • What other countries will offer him asylum (#2 evidence)?
  • Why might those countries oppose the United States (#4 implications and consequences)?
  • How long can he remain in the airport (#3 evidence)?

Six Socratic Thinking Questions

1. Questions for clarification.    

2. Questions that probe assumptions. 

3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence.             

4. Questions about viewpoints and perspectives.       

5. Questions that probe implications and consequences.           

6. Questions about the question.      


You can learn more about  applied critical thinking for younger children by reading Green Eggs and Ham. 

What's Next? Kidnapping Presidents and more...

In the next installment, using our newly acquired Socratic thinking skills, I will discuss our family’s questions and reactions about the Bolivian president’s jet being kidnapped for about 15 hours.

When you join my blog by clicking on the orange RSS button on the left, you will receive immediate notification when the next installment is posted.

To read the first installment on Socratic thinking, click on this link now. 

To read other homeschooling and curriculum blogs, click here. 

To visit my curriculum pages, click here.

 Read the full article from Rappaport’s blog site. 



New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Back To Top