It is with heavy hearts that we share the passing of Roger Schank, Ph.D., the visionary founder and CEO of Socratic Arts.
An educational revolutionary, Roger pioneered learning by doing in Story-Centered contexts, creating immersive, authentic environments for learners that mirror real-world application. After several successful entrepreneurial ventures, Roger's intent in founding Socratic Arts was to build a company with exceptional design integrity, where efficacy would always take precedence over profit. For more than 20 years, Socratic Arts has lived true to his vision, with employees learning the principles and philosophy of our approach under the careful tutelage of Roger and other senior leaders. The Socratic Arts team will proudly continue to honor Roger's legacy in the decades to come.
Roger began his career as an Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science at Stanford University (he was the youngest professor at the school). He later moved to Yale University, where he was Professor of Computer Science and Psychology, Chairman of the Computer Science Department, and Director of the Yale Artificial Intelligence Project. He served as a visiting professor at the University of Paris VII, and was a research fellow at the Institute for Semantics and Cognition in Switzerland. From this period, Roger's "script theory" model of cognition and "case-based reasoning" approach developed into a broad appreciation of narrative as crucial to how humans think (Schank 1990, 1995; Schank & Abelson, 1995).
We honor his legacy by sharing some highlights of his storied career.
Roger's interest shifted from artificial intelligence to education when his children went to school. Through his AI research, he determined the way students were taught in school was antithetical to how people naturally think and learn. He moved to Northwestern University to found the Institute for the Learning Sciences (ILS), giving birth to an entirely new field of academic research, The Learning Sciences, combining education, cognitive science, and computer science. At Northwestern, Roger was the John Evans Professor of Computer Science, Education, and Psychology. The learning sciences field has grown phenomenally since the founding of ILS; today many major universities have robust Learning Sciences programs.
After Northwestern, Roger was the Chief Education Officer of Carnegie Mellon's Silicon Valley Campus, where, in lieu of a traditional course centered approach, he introduced the idea of master's degrees using immersive Story-Centered Curricula. Roger was an enthusiastic business innovator, energized and excited when our work made a difference in the corporate world. He never stopped thinking about what else we could do to make a bigger impact, ever hopeful that the delivery of innovative and effective training for adults in major companies would translate to those same adults wanting similar approaches for their children.
Roger was a fellow of the AAAI, the founder of the Cognitive Science Society, co-founder of the Journal of Cognitive Science, and instrumental in founding the Journal of the Learning Sciences. He received a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Texas. A prolific writer, Roger authored 33 books and more than 125 articles and publications. He was most proud of working with the US Department of Defense, the EPA, and The National Guard, as both of his parents served in the military.
Roger is survived by his wife Annie and his children Joshua (Lindsey Arent Schank) and Hana (Steven Shaklan), and grandchildren Milo and Mira Shaklan, and Max and Jonah Schank.
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