11 January 2011

Questions Anyone? Too Bad!

Raise your hand if you have kids.

Wow, that's a lot of kids.

I promise this won't be a post about my toddler, suffice it to say that he is only two... a little young to be asking questions. Yet as a teacher I can't wait until he starts.

The great thing about kids, and the reason they learn so quickly, is that they are able to take risks. Asking questions, which proves you don't know something, is risky business. Yet kids want to learn more than they don't want to look ignorant.

Looking ignorant in the Army is dangerous. So questions are out of order.

In my classroom, on the other hand, I regularly sustain a barrage of queries. Early in my career, I might have gotten a little defensive in the face of so many questions. You see, there are two ways to interpret them:

One might think they pose a challenge to whatever he has taught. If there are questions, after all, it means that a student didn't understand something, which proves some degree of ineffectiveness in the instruction.

The other way to look at questions in general is to see them as a sign of curiosity, inquisitiveness, and insistence on excellence.

I love questions now. Too often, Army leaders hate them. Guys with rank, ironically, are among the most defensive of all. Poor leaders don't appreciate being challenged, and they certainly don't want anyone to insinuate they are ineffective instructors.

More than that, the Army hates exceptions, and a question represents an exception to what the institution expects everyone to know.

Sure, Soldier leaders will all say they encourage questions. But in practice, they don't reward them. Asking a question, especially in a testosterone-driven atmosphere, such as a large group of Soldiers, is a risky proposition.

The risk-reward equation is much different in the Army than it is in my classroom. I can't even count the number of times that a Soldier leader has asked for questions, only to berate the guy brave enough to raise his hand and ask for clarification on the 20,000-slide lecture that was breezed through.

"I already explained that! Weren't you listening?"

Tends to stifle the spirit of curiosity.

Who doesn't believe me? Raise your hand.

(Photo by Army Sgt. Jacob H. Smith)

1 comment:

  1. Great Observation! I recently started a new career in a completely foreign field. I am at the point where I desire to learn more than I fear ridicule for not knowing. I wish society would recognize this as a positive attribute and not as a nuisance. The Army is not alone.