A while back I was discussing the subject of “questioning” with Richard Saul Wurman, the original creator of the TED Conference and a man who’s pretty much obsessed with questions.
He immediately focused on the educational system. “In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question,” Wurman pointed out. Which may explain why kids—who start off asking endless “why” and “what if” questions—gradually ask fewer and fewer of them as they progress through grade school.
This also came up in the Newsweek story “The Creativity Crisis” (no longer linkable, alas) about signs of declining creativity among our school children. Interesting fact cited in the article: Preschool kids ask their parents an average of 100 questions a day. By middle school, they’ve basically stopped asking questions. Around this time, the article points out, student motivation and engagement plummets. Which raises an interesting question: Have the kids stopped asking questions because they’ve lost interest? Or have they lost interest because the rote answers-driven school system doesn’t allow them to ask enough questions? (I touch on some of these questions in my book trailer video “What Kills Questioning?”; see it over there in the right sidebar.)
There’s a lot to explore here. I know that there are many teachers, and progressive schools, and programs within schools, that are much more geared to allowing kids to question and experiment. I take a closer look at some of those efforts in my book (see this excerpt, for example), and ask whether they should be embraced more widely. Meanwhile, if you have thoughts, ideas, anecdotes (and of course, questions) about the role of questioning within our educational system, please share.
Oh, and just for fun, here’s a wonderful video riff by comedian Louis C.K. all about kids and how many questions they ask, to the irritation of their parents. (If you can’t abide 4-letter words, you may want to skip it.)
Video: “Why?” by Louis C.K.