Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Our Stupid Questions




They say there's no such thing as a stupid question, but I beg to differ. We hear stupid questions almost every time adults and young children are together. 

For instance, a child is painting at an easel, exploring color, shape, and motion, experimenting with brushes, paper, and paint. There is an adult watching over her shoulder who points and asks, "What color is that?"

This is a stupid question. 

Here's another example: a child is playing with marbles, exploring gravity, motion and momentum. An adult picks up a handful of marbles and asks, "How many marbles do I have?"

The adult already knows the answer. The child probably does as well, in which case, the adult is distracting her from her deep and meaningful studies in order to reply to a banality. Or she doesn't know the answer, in which case the adult is distracting her from her deep and meaningful studies to play a guessing game.

In a moment, these stupid questions take a child who is engaged in testing her world, which is her proper role, and turns her into a test taker, forced to answer other people's questions rather than pursue the answers to her own.

If it's important that the child know these specific colors and numbers at this specific moment, and it probably isn't, then we should do the reasonable thing and simply tell her, "That's red," or "I have three marbles." If it's not new information, and it probably isn't, she's free to ignore you as she goes about her business of learning. If she didn't know, now she does, in context, as she goes about her business of learning.

This is probably the greatest crime we commit against children in our current educational climate of testing, testing, and more testing. We yank children away from their proper role as self-motivated scientists, testing their world by asking and answering their own questions, and instead force them to become test takers, occupying their brains with our stupid questions.


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5 comments:

Sam Sherratt said...

He he... I love this post - thanks for writing it. I have been asking teachers not to play "guess what's in my head for a few years now". Round about the time I became aware of myself doing it!

Julie Steed said...

BAM! Pretty sure I'm guilty of doing the above at times. Thank you for giving me the nudge to think more before I speak.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! I hear these kinds of questions all the time!

Rebecca deCoca said...

Brillant!

Mrs. Hahn said...

Well put. I can appreciate your comments in this post. I enjoy your blog and have been inspired many times by what you post. Thank you for sharing. MiniMatisse.blogspot.com

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