Responding to a Teacher with a website of teaching tools (appended below).
I appreciate your noticing the key phrase “ask the dumb questions” in my comment. It’s fishing for better questions generally that I was writing about.
I’m sort of a specialist in the “unasked but obviously unexplained” stuff. Usually we only “see” our own meanings for things, steered by only by our own present questions. So we miss a whole world streaming bye with questions no one knows the answer to never being asked.
I think the main job of a kid is to ask the unasked questions, not to repeat back stock answers. For example we all operate within natural systems that are not organized like our cultural values and stereotypes for them at all.
One way things “hidden in sight” that way can be made visible is by responding to the slight tugs of “cognitive dissonance”, noticing patterns that don’t fit our way of fitting things together, and having curiosity about that. One of the big ones today is; Why IS our only long term plan to just multiply wealth till it runs into trouble, anyway???
You can just get confused by the many sides of that, but the interesting part is that the question just doesn’t go away anyway. It’s the “persistence of dissonance” like that that is the cool thing.
It can be summed up with a phrase that seems to do Descartes one better. Instead of “I think therefore I am” you get “If it’s can’t me we both must be” indicating something that is organized in a way inconsistent with your own mind, and so must exist independently.
Asking about some world, thing or person you know fairly well “What I just can’t explain about ____ is…” provides a good way to locate the depth and richness of the real world. It points to how every individual thing is truly individual, and the lines where you see deeply into the people around you to sense the “persistence of dissonance” that demonstrates why they can never be ‘explained’ and are truly individual.
It also, of course, leads to better steering capability in a world chock full of independently behaving parts that most people seem otherwise quite unaware of.
> Subject: RE: Feedback
> Hi Phil,
> Thanks for your thoughts. Are you reflecting on all the offerings of the Network (which is actually ten years old, so not new at all!), or only on one feature (e.g., the Conversation Starter, or the Daily News Quiz)? We’re constrained by the format in some of the shorter features as to what questions we ask, but we certainly try in our daily lessons to get at “prompting real thinking.” Your overall point, though, is an important one, and I think we’d all do well to keep in mind how to “ask the dumb questions,” and get outside the conventional wisdom on the topics we cover!
> K. S.
> —–Original Message—– Subject: Feedback name: Phil Henshaw
> Area of site: general
> Comments: I was just poking around as learners are sometimes apt to do… and found this unusual new feature of the online NY Times. It’s simply wonderful, but I pause to wonder if you might fall prey to the usual expert error of presenting only what fits your own explanations, i.e. a sales job rather than to prompt real thinking and better new questions.
> If you can, also ask the dumb questions that are not properly answered by any point of view. Ask where the holes are in our breezy way of putting off skepticism. Ask where people consistently get the wrong signals from nature. Ask if the inexplicable is extraordinary noise in the data or the normal learning by some other group of systems behaving as individuals. Ask about the point in learning about things where you find them so different from you that you accept needing to watch them with fascination rather than ever hope to explain them.
> In all my years of research those are areas of cognitive dissonance perennially fruitful for raising good new questions. At first it may seem hard to find such subjects, but then later find it’s really a matter of approach and that ways to expose the special magic of living on a creative planet in a creative universe can be found of nearly anything.
> Best, pfh