Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"There Are No Stupid Questions."

Do you remember back in elementary school when your teacher would encourage the students to ask questions by saying "There are no stupid questions"? And then teachers and professors saying the same thing throughout all of your education? I've spent pretty much my entire life in school, so I remember this very clearly. Sometimes students will even say, "This might be a stupid question, but..." and the professor will interrupt by saying, "There are no stupid questions."

I'm no teacher, and I may get flack from teachers for this post, but I'm here to tell you that there ARE stupid questions. Maybe not in elementary and middle school, but at some point (let's say, if you're working towards an advanced degree) there do become stupid questions. I've asked them, too, so don't be ashamed. Like the time I asked if an X-linked disease could be responsible for symptoms seen in a father and son pair. "Well, no," the genetics professor explained, "because fathers do not pass their X chromosomes to their sons." Or even outside of school I often say dumb things. For example, I was running along a path by a creek that was lined with a 6 inch barrier made of rolled hay. I turned to my running companion and said, "Do you think that's to keep geese out of the creek?" [awkward pause] "The geese could probably fly over it." "Right. Duh."

What I'm trying to say, is that even though stupid questions really annoy me, what annoys me more is people denying that stupid questions exist. I think it's okay when you're young, in the spirit of encouraging engagement in education, but we really need to start acknowledging the presence of stupid questions. If you're 25 years old, and at a seminar about a computer program, and you ask, "How did you close that window?" and the answer is "The X at the top of the window" that is a stupid question. Let's all recognize it, and move on.

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