“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Albert Einstein, 1955
I remember very clearly that stage where my children asked questions. And the most predominant word was, “why”. Initially I found it endearing, delighted that my child had become not just observant but questioning. I remember the earnest faces and I remember the insistence they had for an answer. Perhaps you are recognising those same things occurring in your family now. But I also remember how infuriating it became when I gave, what I thought was a calm and reasoned answer to which the response would be, ”Yes mummy, but , why?” And then again “”Why?” and again …. In fact, sometimes, wearied after a busy day, their insistent “why questions” seemed a bit like the drip, drip, drip of an ancient water torture.
Gosh how I tired of those questions and breathed a sigh of relief when they finally stopped.
But reflecting on that, asking Why?” is such a profound thing , and when done with a childlike innocence shows a cognitive ability to make logical connections between ideas and concepts. The question why is showing a thirst for knowledge, by asking this question children show that they are keen and eager to explore and understanding the world around them. They are using critical thinking skills to develop a deeper understanding of how their world works by triangulating what they see, hear, and do. Our children want to know and they feel safe to ask you, to take you on their journey of discovery – don’t allow irritation and impatience to negate what is an important point in your child’s life.
It has been shown that, as children move through school, they ask fewer and fewer questions and, when they get part way into senior school, they stop altogether. This is usually at the point when they think they know and understand everything, and this – you will not e surprised to know, coincides with adolescence. When I discovered this, I was the one to ask, WHY?
Is it that our educational system traditionally rewards pupils for having the answer, not for asking good questions – an answers-driven school system. This would be a sad state of affairs and I am reminded of the quote by Warren Berger,
“Knowing the answers to questions will help you in school. Knowing how to ask questions will help you in life.”
As adults there is a tendency to ask only those questions that require finite answers, answers that that don’t challenge. The less creative people will ask focus driven questions, believing the concrete answers of what, when and how to be the most important. However, the people who really make the difference, the ones who drive change, are the ones who hold on to the why, and then go on to figure out the what, the when and the how.
The why keeps us curious, the why is our passion to do what we love rather than to simply do as we are told. Why is seed of creativity and the question of innovators. Why challenges and promotes conversation and deeper thinking. I would suggest that those who ask why make better leaders as they promote deeper thinking and allow for more engaged conversations where all can take ownership.
Powerful questions are doorways leading toward the more resilient and vibrant life we want to lead.
I have said for a long time, that I do not want the girls at my school to be process-driven robots and it is our focus on oracy and our push for independent learning of an inquiry nature, that makes our girls so engaging and so confident. I never want our children to stop asking why. Questioning keeps us connected to our world. I want children and young adults to be every form of curious, to look to Mars and ask, “Why?” To look at new life and ask, ^Why.?” to be faced with challenge and ask, “Why?”
So adults, let us rekindle our youth, and begin again to ask that most important question, WHY? Where will it take us? Let the adventure begin.