I hope the Good Question Game blog series has motivated some thinking and wondering. The impact of asking good and meaningful questions is not my idea. Our ability to relate to one another and especially to who we consider "the other," depends wholly on our humble, sincere, and committed curiosity to understand the range of experiences of each other.
What have you noticed about your own habit of asking questions? Do you get to the point when it is appropriate to do so? In what ways do you engage a child, your friend, a partner, a co-worker, a cashier -- a person with differing moral and political beliefs? Have you ever said, "could you share a bit about what is important to you, and why?"
My point in blogging, in 10 parts, about good and right questions is just this -- we make sense and meaning of our lives by asking questions of ourselves, of the people we meet and of the systems in our lives. What is a more important point skill to manifesting meaning?
Children are natural and not self-conscious about asking questions, most of the time. I count three main contexts when children do not ask questions.
1. When they are not allowed or do not feel safe.
2. When they are not interested or do not care.
3. When they do not know what they need to know, therefore ask.
Children test out and test me on what I am trying to guide them to experience or learn. I am not an academic teacher. I teach all manners of personal, ethical, and spiritual development by inviting children to engage in ideas and activities that will help them grow. They are successfully engaging when they are asking questions about what they do not know, or understand -- yet want to. In my experience, this dramatically differs from engaging adults. And because adults have developed habits that often preclude being curious and vulnerable to expressing uncertainty, children do not see models and do not receive encouragement of this important, gateway skill.
Children and teens have so many adults in their life telling them what to do, and I am witness to very concerning limitations in their potential for growth and independence. Privileged children (and teens) can be over-managed by their parents to such a startling degree, their skill for many common sense and common courtesy tasks are often lower than underprivileged peers. Apathy can be the biggest hurdle.
My recent leadership has been for children and teens who are immigrants and refugees. They have strong skills of mutual support and caring. I see how confusing and misleading their lives can be as they live by their cultural and family identities, while some of the worst American culture makes it's way into their habits.
Privileged or underprivileged, American born or far-away born, I always say the same thing -- do you have any questions? What are your questions? What do you need to know to meet your goals? Who are the people you admire? What kind of support do you have in your life? Do you know what junk food is? What kind of job would you like to work towards?
These questions are hard for kids to live in to if the adults around them aren't asking the same kinds of questions. We can ask the age-old question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and by now we know there are new angles and several caveats to that. At the very least we can model practicality.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What are the steps you will need to take?
Who are your supporters?
What's the very next thing you should be doing or thinking about?
My weekend was spent listening to the radio and trying to absorb research and wisdom* about childhood. I believe it will inform my research and reflection about my big question:
How can I support my local community's generation of intercultural kids?
Thinkin' and wonderin',
*Paula Fass's, The End of American Childhood
A History of Parenting from Life on the Frontier to the Managed Child
Eric Weiner's, Geography of Genius: The Geography of Genius
A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley
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