“Binky, Where Are You?”
These are the words that come out of my two-year old’s mouth when he can’t find his pacifier. He always seems fairly convinced that he is going to receive an answer from the inanimate object, and I am not about to tell him otherwise. Toy Story 1,2 & 3 are three of his favorite movies.
Until this afternoon I had never really thought much about my son’s questioning. But, today I laid down next to him as he went to sleep, and during those “tossy-turny” 45 minutes I began to think more about the power of questioning. We in education spend the majority of our day interacting with questions in some shape or fashion and yet I think we have some things backwards.
Back to my son. When children first learn to manipulate words and can use them to communicate, they ask many what questions. Daddy what is this? Daddy what is that? This is how they learn to identify the world around them. This is how they learn to communicate what is going on inside their heads.
Next, children begin to bombard us with as many why questions as they can fit into a waking day. Why this? Why that? Why now? Why not? After a while we start to tune them out. We simply can’t take another why question!
And this is when it happens. This is the time when children learn that the questioner becomes the questionee. It is at this point that children begin to realize that the majority of their day is spent answering our questions. They read. They answer questions. They see numbers. There are questions that accompany them. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that this is how learning can take place.
But I also believe that this is when some of the magic stops. When children stop generating their own questions and instead have to respond to ours. I feel that by reversing the questioner-questionee relationship we are depriving children of much potential brain growth.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, while it is more difficult to study animals’ brain activity than humans, scientists do know that, “if certain synapses and neuronal pathways are not repeatedly activated, they may be discarded, and the capabilities they promised may be diminished.”
We know this and yet we continue to allow the majority of students’ days to be spent answering our questions instead of allowing them to generate some of their own. I feel like we have this wrong. I feel like we need to tip the balance back a little bit their way.
I don’t know the answer.
But I do know this, if that binky ever answers my son, I’m making a run for it!
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.