Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wisdom = Asking Good Questions

Why is it so much easier to comment on other people's blogs, rather than posting to our own?

I think it comes down to this: It's much easier to come up with great answers than it is to ask great questions.

Good blog posts implicitly or explicitly ask the reader good questions. They make us think and feel.

In fact, I think you can easily generalize and say that the key to wisdom is asking good questions.

And if that's the case, here's a question for you:

Why does our educational system focus on teaching us how to give good answers, rather than how to ask good questions? Can a multiple-choice test ever help you develop wisdom? And if not, why do we make kids take the SAT?

(Thanks to Penelope Trunk for triggering this thought)

6 comments:

Zoli Erdos said...

Here's an interesting post about the questions we ask...

penelope said...

Chris,

I have been thinking a lot about this topic, too. And, I think I am going to send my son to a school that has no homework through eighth grade. I decided to do this because I think the ability to generate ones own questions might be squashed by the homeworks duties that weigh kids down every day after school. Generating questions requires down time, and I don't think our school system is set up to give kids enough downtime for asking their own questions.

The same is true, by the way, of learning what we care about. It seems to me that being a successful adult is primarily about figuring out what matters to us and what we like. Being a successful student is primarily about learning to like to do what teachers tell you you need to do.

Penelope

MJ said...

Why does school suck? Because it is specifically designed to suck. Check this out: http://www.spinninglobe.net/againstschool.htm

==
Alexander Inglis [published a book on Secondary education in 1918], for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever re-integrate into a dangerous whole.

Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:

1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.

2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.

3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.

4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.

6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.


That, unfortunately, is the purpose of mandatory public education in this country.

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Jhaus said...

Great Questions Chris!

Couldn't agree more...I just wish more people would be willing/able to ask the same things.

Tim Taylor said...

It would seem that questions aren't something that can be controlled, like educators wish to do with the minds of children.

What a great idea for a part of class...question time.

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