Thinking is as much a part of life as is eating. Something to think about is often referred to as ‘food for thought’; and food for thought is just as important to wellbeing as is food for the body. When I’m not thinking about where I’ll partake of my next meal, or what I might eat, I’m often thinking about education.
I recently read an article on Selected Reads called Teacher’s Guide to Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions which included a review of a book by Rothstein and Santana entitled “Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions“.
I will be upfront and admit that I have not read the book and am commenting on the review alone which states that the book brings together “several years of research and experience into a methodology for applying their groundbreaking thought and technique.” It goes on to say that “The basic argument … is pretty basic: for our students to achieve excellence and equity, we need to teach them the skill of question formulation.” (my emphasis)
I really have no argument with the premise of the book. In fact, it sounds like a pretty good read to me. I have even previously blogged about the importance of asking questions in these posts: Child’s play – the science of asking questions and What you don’t know …
What I wonder about is: If it is so important for students to learn to ask questions, why do we spend so much time in school teaching them to stop asking questions and to learn just what is presented to them, whether they like it or not?
Aren’t children born asking questions? Aren’t they pretty good at asking questions (verbal or otherwise) to figure out what they need to know about the world? Why then do we sit them in desks all day and force-feed them content for future on-demand regurgitation?
I consider it to be a bit like inviting someone to a feast but feeding them pap, which is the essence of my flash fiction piece written in response to the prompt suggested by Charli Mills this week at the Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) include food in your story.
His eyes widened, flitting across the table, scanning the feast, a smorgasbord of sensory delights. His mouth moistened and tummy growled.
Where to start? A bit of this. A little of that. A whole lot of that! Mmmm!
He rubbed his belly and licked his lips.
Suddenly he was marched away and slammed onto a hard wooden bench. A bowl of colourless pap was flung at him. “Eat this!”
The overfilled spoon was shoved between tightened teeth.
“It’s good for you!”
Over time he learned. “Not so bad,” he thought.
Okay. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe I’m painting the picture darker than reality. Maybe. But sometimes that is necessary for even partial recognition of the situation to occur. You know about the swinging pendulum.
The picture painted by Scott McLeod of dangerously ! irrelevant is no brighter. In his post The declining economic value of routine cognitive work he says that while most employees (in the U.S.) are engaged in non-routine cognitive and interpersonal work; routine cognitive work is what students are mostly engaged and assessed in, and what traditionalist parents and politicians advocate. So while work tasks may require “problem-solving, intuition, persuasion, and creativity”, school tasks involve things such as automation and repetition.
My wish is that all parents, school administrators, education policy makers and teachers do as Rothstein and Santana suggest – let them ask questions!
Of course I couldn’t write a post about food and questions and not mention the blog of one of my very favourite questioners, Bec, who writes about “wholefoods, vegetarianism, slow living and their existential friends” at There’s no food. There’s much food for thought there!
And now for something a little bit different: The edible cookbook. It’s a cookbook you can read, cook and eat! I wonder what questions its designer was asking to come up with such an innovative and interesting design.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please join in the discussion or share your thoughts about any aspect of this post, including my flash fiction.