Colton Cutchens

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How much of a right do students have to questioning and independent thinking?

What is your opinion on how much students should be allowed to question? Do they have the right to question if they may see a logical fallacy? If so, how far are they allowed to question it? Why?

In addition: I understand teachers try to allow students to question, but sometimes are limited by the administration (and/or bureaucracy). Why is this?

  • Jan 10 2013: If students leave their classrooms not knowing what questions to ask -- not knowing how to instigate their own learning -- then the answers they have been taught or come up with become non-transferable and static. When I lecture (which isn't very often), I suggest to my students that they take notes on the questions I ask, not the answers to the questions. Most students have not been taught HOW to question or WHAT KINDS of questions lead to different types of answers. Questioning is THE most vital component of critical thinking, and it is, without a doubt in my mind and based on my experiences as a teacher, CRITICAL THINKING that enables students to learn beyond books and to apply their learning to situations outside the classroom.
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      Jan 11 2013: I agree, you've worded it perfectly.
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    Jan 5 2013: Silly people. The earth is flat, and all things revolve around it. How could you ever question that?

    If you are a teacher you are here to teach, not dictate doctrine. You are here to push people to learn, question, to explore, and to discover new things. If you have a problem with that find a new line of work.
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      Jan 5 2013: Hi David,

      You missed my earlier post. School districts don't allow teachers to push young people to learn, question or explore... to discover new things. They are to instruct the student to get a good grade on the state tests. Everything else is superfluous. And a large percentage of teachers have a problem with that. Turnover rates at some districts in my home area are worse then Mc Donalds. No offense to Mc D.
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        Jan 6 2013: Actually, the federal and state laws, rules, and regulations, union influence in politics, funding based on the results of standardized tests, and shortsightedness on the parts of our leaders, all combine to cause the issues we see. They combine to create a system that pushes all students towards the LCD. Punishing those who can be come great, and rewarding those that are borderline Forrest Gump. A school voucher system, and allowing parents to choose the schools their children attend, would do a lot to alleviate these issues.
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          Jan 6 2013: David, you got it right. I have heard of successful voucher programs and they do help.
          In my perfect world, all eduction would be private. Parents would pay for their children's eduction. Parents pay for Harvard for college, why not the 1st grade level. It's a mad dream, I know. But, I think the current Public School system has let us down for all the reasons you noted and a couple of my own.
          The initial concept for public schools came from the founding fathers who understood that the electorate in the new United States would need a clear understanding of the mechanics of a Constitution Republic to make it work. Today, civics is a high school senior snooze course. If you listened to the voters interviewed during the last election, I can honestly claim there has been a lot of sleeping going on.
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        Jan 6 2013: This whole 4 levels of comment stuff is horrible. It needs to be fixed.
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        Jan 6 2013: I wouldn't go as far as you and make parents to pay for all their children's education K-12. It would be a nightmare, where only the rich had educations and poor people got left behind. And government forcing people to pay a per child education Tax would be unworkable. In maybe 15-30 years we can get away with it as computer based education and course certifications become the norm. But now no way.
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        Jan 7 2013: To David and Mike- What do you think of all education, elementary to collegiate, being free to the public?
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          Jan 7 2013: Truth be told we are entering an age of abundance in education. You just need one person in a dorm room to pull together khan and other resources in a workable manner.

          So your point is moot, everyone with a cellphone or tablet will soon have education available for free.
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        Jan 7 2013: I do think I answered both parts of the question. One with a snarky remark, the other later on with my response about. "Actually, the federal and state laws, rules .....etc".
  • Jan 12 2013: One thing I haven't seen mentioned in this thread is how cultural and social environments influence whether students ask questions or not. In a composition course I taught a few years ago, one of my students, who was an exchange student from China, never spoke in class and never asked questions even though it was clear from her work that she was struggling with understanding the assignments. One day in class, we began an impromptu discussion about what the responsibility of a student was in his/her own education, and this student informed us that in her culture, questioning a professor was considered disrespectful, that it was tantamount to questioning the teacher's credibility. In other words, the responsibility for understanding material once a professor/teacher had explained it in class was on the student. This made me much more sensitive to the reasons WHY students might not ask questions and to clarifying for students what the purpose and impact of asking questions was in my courses.
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      Jan 12 2013: It is important, as you write, Tracy, that the culture of teacher-student relationships and responsibilities varies by country. You speak from the experience of having seen this, but many people confuse stereotype for having a real picture.

      Some months back, as an example, I ran across an educated person who believed that Americans are either trained/educated or disposed to trust what other Americans claim and to distrust claims made by those who are not Americans. I would sooner have said that Americans are trained/educated to question most of what anyone claims, regardless of where the speaker is from!
  • Anne N

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    Jan 14 2013: Students should be allowed to question and challenge the teacher to a certain extent. However, I believe that neither students nor teachers should diss each other's opinions. Sometimes, when the student is questioning too much in a classroom context, he or she should approach the teacher to ask them about the subject matter after classes. I believe the context in which a student questions is important as well. This is because not all students would want to listen to a debate between opinions in class.

    Teachers should definitely try to answer the students' questions and encourage independent thinking as far as possible. However, if the student goes so far as to disrespect the opinions that the teacher is trying to give, I feel that the teacher should be allowed to "reel" the student back in.

    In a nutshell, I believe that independent thinking and questioning should be done in appropriate manners in appropriate contexts.
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    Jan 10 2013: I am confused. We went from a discussion of students have rights to questioning ( information from teachers who might be limited or restricted ) and independent thinking. Simple question, simple answer. It's not about rights, students have a responsibility to question and conduct independent thinking. That is how most students best acquire information to process into their knowledge.

    None of this is about teachers, or class sizes, or funding or social responsibilities of school systems, public or private. Now students who do question or go on to independent thinking and are rebuffed; that is a sad disheartening situation. It makes no difference to the student about the teachers, the schools, the system, the universal cosmos. He was stifled in his quest to gain information to satisfy his need for his knowledge.
    Everything else is an excuse.
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    Jan 4 2013: Unlimited right........
    Why should be there any limit ?
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      Jan 4 2013: yes. there should definitely not be!
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      Jan 4 2013: When the questions prevent other students from learning, a limit should be in place.
      So teachers having to set some limits and they have rights also, how to find the balance between each of the rights is the tricky part.
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        Jan 4 2013: i agree.

        if you're being flat out disrespectful by asking questions for the wrong reasons rather than genuinely possessing a question, or simply to be a jerk to the teacher in the middle of class for whatever reason, there should be a limit on that. as soon as it becomes disruptive, that's stepping outside the student's given right and is infringing on other students' right (to be educated without such disruption.)

        the teachers definitely do have rights. there's got to be a balance. perhaps one thing that would help is if questions and comments were encouraged for after class, instead of in the middle of class. this right is NOT an excuse to cause disruptions and be disrespectful! there is a proper way to ask and make comments.
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        Jan 5 2013: "No question is dumb , answers can be".....having said that I do agree questions can be intensionally disrespectful or disruptive....which need to be handled in right way instead of just limiting the questioning....

        Students also need to learn how a question can be such disruptive through answers they need learn not repeat such. The challenge is , many a times we adults don't know answers of all question that comes in curious mind of many instances we feel insecure to agree that we don't know everything or even if we know due to taboo don;t know how to answer it so consider those question to be disrespectful or disruptive (it can have cultrual bias as well)....and that's the risk.

        @Linda I agree that we should also encourage kids to find answers of questions of their own , which will make them explorative and also drive their independant thinking....

        Many a times personally I ask my sons to find answers from books or internet though I know the asnwer ....that I do in a playful way....and this technique I don't feel as to be way of "limiting" question it's rather the other way.....however it's my personal feeling....
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          Jan 7 2013: i do the same thing with people. telling them to look it up, just as a way to show that you are capable of finding answers with your own resourcefulness and don't always need to be taught. it's a very important skill. :)
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      Jan 4 2013: I'm with Don. You can question all you want but do not expect the answers. Those you have to find out for yourself.
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        Jan 4 2013: I see what you are trying to state here and in your previous comment, but I think I need a little more explanation. Students have a right to unlimited questions and find the answers they are seeking about the information themselves, but sometimes must trust what the teacher is doing, whether it be the information itself or the structure of teaching. So does this also apply if a student thinks they see a fallacy within the procedure itself, set forth by the teacher or the administration? Should they be allowed to question it?
        • Jan 4 2013: It sounds like you are questioning where exactly that balance lies, right?

          The answer seems contextual, but there is no doubt this it is tough to determine regardless of the context. I think that in a group educational setting, students should definitely be encouraged to understand the material as much as possible, but learn to trust the teacher/book/others when the other student are not learning anything from one student's persistent questioning.

          With that said, I think it is ultimately the students that never stop asking "why" who end up becoming experts, innovators, and trailblazers in their field and who end up pushing the boundaries of what we know as a species. For example, we were once taught that electrons, neutrons, and protons were the smallest subatomic particles. If every student, in previous group setting, trusted the teacher after offered that conclusion, nobody would have never discovered fermions, bosons, quarks, etc (except maybe by accident, which they may have in a parallel universe).

          My point, which I think is just an extended form of Don and Linda's, is that questioning in the group setting should be encouraged up to the point where others students would not benefit. Outside of the group setting, they should be allowed to question without limit. In that case, the capacity to individually understand, the capacity of the collective human knowledge, and/or physical limitations become the only obstacles to finding the answers.
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    Jan 4 2013: when it comes to students independently question and thinking critically, they have an absolute right and nothing less... the right to question information presented until satisfied and in understanding. it's worthless to say they would be receiving an education if they cannot, at the very least, question its validity or call out a fallacy.

    at the point in which students do not have this right, what happens in the classroom becomes something other than learning; instead, it becomes nothing more than standardisation, repetition, memorisation, and information without purpose. when there is a lack of learner autonomy in the classroom, the student takes a passive role... a role where the rational mind does not belong. you cannot create a classroom environment so toxically authoritarian and oppressive towards critical thinking, yet still expect students to walk away with real, applicable knowledge. this seethes hypocrisy and lack of respect for these students, who are already shown a dysmal amount as a result of being forced into the long-obsolete american public education system.

    that was a bit of a ramble but i feel very passionately on this subject.
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    Jan 26 2013: Well, as you have read and should understand by now, question everything! To many, this is too much. To truly question means you will have to dig, to go to more than one source. Read between the lines. I don't know what I don't know = people making statements on subjects they know nothing about: but I saw it on fox news, msnbc, tv, it was on the internet...Students need to make a habit of questioning, if you just accept what you hear/read you may not know the truth. The other has been answered, How the school rates in the state is all that matters. Some teachers will go out of their way, give you more then just what you need for the test. But it is also true that some questions of religion or abortion can't be answered
  • Jan 14 2013: I think they have the right to question everything from the color of the sky to the foundation of our country. Education is meant to do just that; maximize every individual to his or her potential as an independent thinker.

    I think teachers really try to do their job. But laws like NCLB really curb that, and the teachers really don't have a choice. Their input on changing how the educational system works is really limited, if not eliminated entirely. With their pay penalized if the students aren't "advancing", teachers are sort of forcing students to be good test-takers rather than critical thinkers, despite that huge potential we each have.

    The reason behind that (warning, I am completely biased on my position, and very opinioniated, but here it comes), is private money. It seems to be the conservative dream to privitize schools for "efficiency", but, to me, its more like a sort of relish for making money of our public schools. Education should be free of money, and taking on the business model has already corrupted our schools enough, taking the educators out of the equation, and allowing for the wealthiest individuals and businesses to decide what or how to teach the students for them.
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    Jan 14 2013: As an educator, I believe students have all the right to question and to make logical conclusions. This type of thinking is how our country got out of tyranny and became independent from the British Empire. This type of thinking gave us the Bill of Rights, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, and acts that were made law to help us in our quest for understanding. Students need to question everything so they can decide what is ethical and what is not. This is how they learn and become independent thinkers in this society.
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    Jan 13 2013: IMO Students have the right to question everything, teachers have the responsibility to answer everything about the subject and any related subjects being taught (to the best of their ability).

    There is no such thing as learning without questions and there is no thing above questioning. This is the root of all understanding, being able (or unable) to answer questions. Questions can teach the teacher as much as the student.

    So all things considered I consider it more of a responsibility (to yourself and for society) for a student to question.

    Great topic!
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    Jan 11 2013: As a former teenager (I'm 61 now) I understand completely what you are saying. The same situation existed when I was in school. Conformity, in it's simplest form is just following the rules.

    What is being revealed here (IMO) is the fact the learning environment, which is not completely functional, creates an atmosphere where the relationship between teacher and students are strained. This causes everyone to behave in a defensive manner rather than one where the free and open exchange of ideas can be played out.

    My question to some of the teenagers here is, how can the school environment be altered to promote a better environment, conducive to the free and open exchange of ideas between teacher and student? What do you think prevents this environment from being established?
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      Jan 12 2013: i am a engineering student.i am from india .Here student just memorize their syllabus because professor have not ability to teach us. then how can we ask questions to those who dont have ability to answer our question.
      and we ask questions to our friends because they will understand us because professors are not like our friends so they understand us always try to make joke of student question for just keep their respect in classroom.All of us fear from professors if we misbehave with them they will detain us. thats why i just stay from them......
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        Jan 12 2013: @ Parth Mahida:

        " can we ask questions to those who dont have ability to answer our question." Your question answers itself my friend. Ask a rock instead and you have the same situation. You would not ask a rock because you know, beforehand that the rock does not know the answer. Instead, you search for the answer in other locations or from other people. There are many notable Engineers in India who would be willing to answer your question. I would suggest forming a study group, which will increase your odds of finding the answers you seek.
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      Jan 12 2013: I think that some teachers provide enough space for growth, for instance recommended reading is an amazing way for students to explore answers on their own. However, one must appreciate that social interaction helps others/some along. How do you introduce discussion? perhaps tutorials, or group discussions led by a tutor. I've seen these and enjoyed these.

      I also always appreciate teachers that are understanding and knows that I have burdens. A simple 'I understand' makes me work much more harder.

      I think the biggest downfall of education is that we are expected to have a certain amount of knowledge at a certain point and thus taught a certain amount of knowledge at a certain point. It is cyclical, this gauge that is used. I have been kicked out of a class for 'knowing too much' or asked to stay quiet because apparently I had an advantage over the other students. I dropped out. If anyone looks at my stats they're going to see I DROPPED OUT and not that I spent classes where I was asked to 'observe' or possibly help someone with an answer or some thing.

      Independent learning does take some responsibility but I believe assuming the students have that capacity rather than assuming they don't does much more good than bad.
  • Jan 10 2013: I am not saying that all questions warrant an immediate response. I would say that all questions made in class should be relevant to the class. They should be probing, and insightful, and on topic. I too dislike those who ask questions just to disrupt the class.

    I have taught for a few years, and although I teach in a very different arena to a University lecture, there are some parallels which cannot be forgotten. I too have experienced the students to are just there to be disruptive, but they have a right to ask questions, and I will do my upmost to answer them during their breaks (that is, if they are still interested without the rest of the class present!). But I would say that in my experience the majority of questions are there so that students can clarify what I have said, and to expand their knowledge on something they are interested - these are questions I will always try and answer in class as they are to the benefit of all present. I would go so far as to say that if I ignored them I wouldn't be doing my job. I would also add, that in my experience at least, being flippent to students does more harm then good as they can lose respect for you. I would much rather come out on top by telling them I will talk to them about it later should they wish, than tell than ridicule them.

    In answer to Brock, I never said that I was always right, and there is nothing wrong in me being wrong. But there is a huge difference between being told you are categorically wrong, and explaining the error you are making. I would say that explaining the error is actual teaching as I would be able to improve for next time, whilst being told to sit down and shut up leaves no room for free thought.

    Also, Carolyn's original point above does say 'example'. Either way, the point she is making is no less valid.
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    Jan 9 2013: I have always felt that learning can only support itself - Mistakes are the best teachers and innovation the child of mistakes. I hate having to learn materials from a book to spill it back out. I've lost marks in school for not writing something the way I should and my parents, on realizing that I CAN regurgitate the thing but refuse it have grown weary and angry with me - 'I am a revolutionary' and statements of that sort. We have a right to use and question OUR education; something we pay for, a VERY scary time of our lives, to figure out not just our future but the future in general. I wish my teachers and parents would stop telling me how hard THEY had it and how lucky I am and just for ONE second listen to what I WANT from my EDUCATION.
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      Jan 9 2013: You get to say what you want from your education when you get to graduate school. Until then, we are not concerned with what you want. We are concerned with what you need.
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        Jan 12 2013: And of course, if you climb out of bed after 6pm or before 6am, the boogie man is going to get you...
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          Jan 12 2013: Like I said, students do not know what I know. Get over it.
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        Jan 12 2013: how about a hug my dear?

        *whispers: "contrary to popular belief; standing on a cliff and yelling 'I have all the knowledge in the world', does little to convince people..."



        "there, there"
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          Jan 12 2013: Too funny! I do apologize if my posting seemed that I had some emotional commitment here. It was just a statement of fact.

          Look you sound like a reasonably intelligent person. But I do not teach the 'Introduction to' or 'Fundamentals of' courses. By the time a student reaches the level of the courses I teach they are competitive and have been told most of their lives what a great student they are. They actually think this and it is somehow wrapped up in their self-esteem.

          I teach incredibly rigorous courses and it has an effect on the students in my class. All of a sudden they go from being such a stellar student to being lucky if they can pass the class. Because of this they think it has to be someone else's fault. Me or the school. Or maybe it's not for them.

          I counted one semester. I teach about 5,000 pages of text. in one semester. This is not my fault or the Unis fault but it is the dictates of the profession I am guiding students toward.

          I see students that say the same thing as you. I'm smart, I've never failed, you're doing it wrong.

          If you are bored in class or already know the subject, you should proficiency out of the class. I did that for about 6 classes both undergrad and graduate level. It saves a lot of time and annoyance.

          But please consider the possibility that everything you are saying has been said before. Students always think they are the only one with the problems and we've seen it all before.

          I have single moms living out of cars in my class. Sometimes I take them home. You have no basis to whine.
    • Jan 9 2013: Students do have choices in what they learn. However, the purpose of tax payer funded education is to prepare the student for a 21st century economy.

      For OUR money, WE expect children to learn at a minimum, reading, writing, math, science, and a few other things...Children do get to choose some electives as well, like art, music, wood shop, automotive, etc...

      We also expect them to put effort into their studies. A diploma or a degree is the product of work.
  • Jan 9 2013: Very valid question. The replies stating curriculum restraints, is IMHO, a cop out, hidding behind the establishment, in an effort to avoid the question.
    In an honest learning environment, questions should be encouraged, not discouraged, and if there is a time constraint, then change the time frame to allow time for said questioning.
    Every speech I've ever conducted, I've always allowed time for questions, such questioning is evidance that listeners have listened to what you've said, digested it and come up with questions as a responce.
    Has it ever occured to posters here, that the anger young people display today, may in part be driven by the hypocrisy they see their parents and adults in their lives practicing one thing and preaching another to their kids, and when they ask questions they are put down or ignored ?
    You bet they have a right to ask questions, and if folks can't answer them, they need to find the asnwer themselves. NOT COP OUT.
  • Jan 8 2013: Always ask the next question. Always.
  • Jan 7 2013: The only time this question ever seems to come up is when there are religious implications associated with the material. No one would question whether a calculus class should teach calculus, or that a wood shop class should teach equipment safety.

    It would be absurd for a student to debate calculus before learning it, and it follows by the same logic that it would be just as absurd to debate evolutionary theory before learning it. Miss-information does a disservice to the other students - at no point can the student, prior to learning the material, ever claim to be an expert.
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      Jan 8 2013: Are you saying that students question the integrity of the subjects themselves?
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        Jan 8 2013: They should. They also should question the knowledge of the teacher and the accuracy and assumptions of the textbooks and other materials. They should question the scope of a course and the sequence of courses within a department.

        They don't, though. Teachers don't, either. No one does.

        Why do we teach algebra 1, geometry, and then algebra 2? We teach Macbeth in 12th grade because it's in the textbook. We don't teach A Comedy of Errors at all because it isn't in the textbook.

        Everyone with a stake in education (which is everyone) should question everything about education.
        • Jan 8 2013: The students don't have the expertise to question what subjects should and shouldn't be taught. They simply don't have the life experience to know what matters most. That is where parents, teachers, business leaders, and school boards come in. They DO have the life experiences to know what will prepare a child to be ready for a 21st century economy.

          As for questioning the text books...The students are NOT subject matter experts. The hundreds of subject matter educated people that reviewed the textbook prior to them ever entering your school district are. If you think the students already know the material, then let THEM teach the class...Absurd huh? Of course, if they already know it, then what do we need YOU for?

          You asked, "Why do we teach algebra 1, geometry, and then algebra 2?"

          Just because YOU don't understand the sequence, doesn't mean that it is incorrect. In the end, algebra 1 teaches practical math that can be used in everyday life. Geometry teaches logic. Algebra 2 is when math starts gearing more towards a serious study of math and science, which doesn't necessarily apply to all students. The sequence is very rational. Math educators understand it, because that is what they do, day in and day out.

          But really the question I have for you, Alan, is why do you think you know more about education than someone with a degree in education and has actually studied education theory? Sure, you are a teacher (or so you claim), but are you really claiming that EVERYBODY else is an idiot?
        • Jan 10 2013: "I do understand the sequence of algebra and geometry because I asked the question years ago."

          Then why did you bring it up? Were you relying on other people not understanding it to perpetuate some kind of BS myth that the entire school system is in shambles, and that nobody knows anything? Pathetic!

          My main point is, and has always been, that students have a right to ask questions to better understand the material that is being taught to them. This has not been taken away from them in any way, shape, or form. That is why this entire thread is BS...It is a non-existent dilemma, and nobody has been able to demonstrate one REAL example to the contrary. However, students do not have a right to be disruptive to the education of others.

          Students are smart, but so are the textbook writers, the teachers, school boards, review panels, and other education experts that approve the textbooks and curriculum. This is why I asked if you thought everybody else was an idiot. Of course they are not, and I am glad you agree. Asking questions about why this must be learned is fine, but not to the point of disruption.

          As for history...We all know that history is written by the winners. Students can ask questions for sure, and some do. My experience has been that most history teachers love a lively conversation, because at least the students are showing interest in the material. I've seen classes where nobody says anything. Not out of fear, but out of apathy.
      • Jan 8 2013: Cotton, I am saying that I question the motive of the question you asked in general.

        We have all been in a class room. We all know that most class room environments are pretty open and allow for the discussion of ideas. You propose a dilemma that simply doesn't exist outside of disruptive conversations that claim "God did it, let's stop teaching science."
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          Jan 9 2013: Colton, Brock's thought here raises the question of whether there is a specific situation in your experience that brought this question to mind- a classroom you felt put unreasonable limits on questioning.

          I don't have the knowledge of classrooms worldwide to know whether most class room environments are pretty open and allow for discussion of ideas, but you are writing from the United States.

          As discussion and questioning are the norm in classrooms in the United States, are you asking specifically whether there is anywhere one would draw the line on what is acceptable to ask? You ask about logical fallacy. Here I would say questions are clearly within bounds, subject to the teachers need to manage time, as other respondents have pointed out.

          I am not aware of any case in which teachers would like students to be able to ask questions but administration does not allow it, unless you mean in the sense of demanding a particular pace through the material which makes time management such a great concern. I have never heard claim of an administration directing teachers not to allow questioning along particular lines.

          Every teacher has an obligation to the whole class. There are times a student asks a question that lends itself more to being answered privately, as it doesn't benefit the whole class. An example might be a question that the teacher and class discussed fully when the person was absent. In that case, the teacher would suggest they catch up on that privately.

          As another example, one of my daughters in a course at university described a TA section in which students were collected for an hour to get help from the TA on a challenging assignment. Because of questions from one student well behind the rest, the hour was spent answering that student's very basic question to which all the others knew the answer, leaving the other students entirely underserved. this issue falls under time management, I think.
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          Jan 9 2013: To Brock- There is much to question at all times. If the intent of the question and education itself is to promote reasoning and understanding, then it seems everything, religious or not, should be allowed for the student to question and seek a rational answer. Everything from the subject matter to how the education system is ran, because if the intent is for understanding, then the answer given to the student will almost always be logical and make sense. Is this claim logical? If not, why?

          To Fritzie- I see where time management can come to take place, but students do not always have to ask their questions within class time, as many people have said. also, it seems to me that education administrations and bureaucracy do not allow students to question what their procedures are. That also pertains to when I mention a logical fallacy. If the student has the right to question a logical fallacy, as you have stated, are they able to question a logical fallacy if they believe they see one within the administrator's or bureaucrat's procedures?

          To Brock and Fritzie- I am a student of philosophy, and so I am questioning what I believe to understand if those beliefs are true, regardless of whatever my beliefs originally were. I seek unbiased understanding through reason.
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          Jan 9 2013: Who is this guy! O_O
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          Jan 10 2013: Brock, your claim is flawed. You seem to equate asking why with saying something is wrong.

          Students should question what they are taught and in what order because it is in their interests to know the reasons. As edcuated people, we know why it's important to teach basic economics, for example, but students may not see the utility unless teachers point it out. "Why do we have to learn this" is not the same as "You're wrong to make me learn this."

          Students should question their textbooks, especially asking "How do we know?" Any history textbook, for example, is inherently biased because of what the editors have included and what they have left out (never mind for now the diction and syntax). My students should ask what makes Shakespeare (or anyone else in the canon) so great, and I should help them discover the answer.

          I do understand the sequence of algebra and geometry because I asked the question years ago. Asking the question does not mean or assume something is wrong. Asking the question simply means someone doesn't know the answer.

          "But really the question I have for you, Alan, is why do you think you know more about education than someone with a degree in education and has actually studied education theory? Sure, you are a teacher (or so you claim), but are you really claiming that EVERYBODY else is an idiot?" I expect trolling on other forums, but I think I will answer here anyway. I have a master's degree in education and 28 years of experience in public school. I am National Board certified and trained and certified to teach AP Literature (which I have done for more than 20 years) and IB English (which I have done for all 10 years my school has had the program). I never claimed everybody else is an idiot nor would I ever do so.
      • Jan 9 2013: Cotton said: " it seems everything, religious or not, should be allowed for the student to question and seek a rational answer"

        As long as it doesn't disrupt the teaching of required subject matter, there is nothing wrong with asking questions, even of a religious nature if it is asked in private. But to that end, the student doesn't get to complain about the answer either. However, let's never forget that no one is stopping the student from asking their church about religious questions, and that may be a much better place for those questions.

        Just because someone's church says the earth is 6000 years old, this doesn't give any student the right to disrupt a legitimate discussion on radioactivity and radiometric dating in a physics class. What questions would they ask anyway? "The bible says..." questions? those would be completely inappropriate. Or what about the miss-information that religious organizations put out, all with the intent of preserving the church and to intentionally disrupt the teaching of science? We DO live in a world where that IS going on.
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        Jan 10 2013: I missed your question of yesterday.

        Of course students can question administrative and bureacratic procedures and have done so regularly for a very long time. In what context have you seen that this is not permitted?

        The question is only of time, place, and duration.
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          Jan 17 2013: To Fritzie- It is only in my own experience that I have seen this. And could you please elaborate further on this?
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        Jan 17 2013: Colton, I wrote that students can typically question bureaucratic procedures but that it becomes a question of time, place, and duration.

        Schools have learning goals for students just as different sorts of places of work have their missions. Medical providers see and treat patients, for example, seeing them through illnesses and doing preventative work.

        Any organization needs to balance how much time those involved spend discussing administrative and bureacratic procedures. It is wise to review procedures periodically in any organization, but if the organization devotes too many resources of time and staff to reviewing procedures, the most vital work of the organization will not get done.
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    Jan 7 2013: Not only should they have the right... They should be educated to make it their duty!
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    Jan 5 2013: Colton, When I went to school we were allowed to stray a little ... however, in todays system the federal and state government have preset many conditions that the teacher has no control over. To a already crowed syllabus they have inposed Common Core Curriculum. Textbook publishers and test writers who have the absolute power over what instruction you get are scrambling to get this added into their agendas. Because teachers have limited time to cover all of the test materials and have the added incentive of being evaluated on the students test results ... their time to entertain anything off of the ridgid path is extremely limited.

    I honestly do think that teachers would love to instill both the inquiring mind and independent thinking ... and I believe that this is being done in some Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

    I do not want to defend anyone either teacher or administration but they are not generally in charge of what requirements are ... those are set by federal and state governments. Remember that the school and the districts are also being rated. The federal government controls us by virtue of money allocations ... do it our way or we take away your funds. States do it by lowering your academic credentials ... schools are rated as failing, maintaining, progressing, or excelling. Each state has different criteria for applying these ratings.

    Never stop questioning or digging into subjects until your satisfied. Your teachers will encourage you but unfortunately may not be able to take class time to accomadate this. They are doing the best they can under conditions not of their choosing. The hoops they have to jump through are higher and smaller than the teachers of the past. Work with them ... they do care.

    All the best. Bob.
    • Jan 5 2013: a great comment and i'm glad you've brought it up. too often teachers are blamed for the results of the poor policies drawn up by people who aren't even teachers (education department bureaucrats, schools board members, psychologists etc).

      i agree with your last paragraph as well, but would add that it's important to be able to sometimes just accept that we (not just students, adults too!) don't have sufficient experience or knowledge to understand the full depth of why our doubts are unfounded, and defer to expert opinion.
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      Jan 5 2013: Exactly, I also agree with Robert. Its mostly the education bureaucracy that the issue arises with, and that is what my original question is about.
      • Jan 6 2013: as you might have observed yourself, everybody seems to think they know how to fix education, likely because they've "seen it done" when they were a student at school, and so they have all these 'brilliant' ideas on how to improve classes that they want to bring in to the world if they get the chance.

        the problem is though that so many wear rose-tinted glasses when remembering their school days. i've heard plenty of times people say that they would've done so much better at school if only the classes had been more interesting, completely forgetting the reality of their school days which was that hanging out with their friends was always going to be more interesting than the most fantastic lesson.

        the result is that some things can't be done in class because the time has already been prescribed for something else by someone who only thinks they know what they're doing.
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    Jan 3 2013: Question everything, without exception, except nothing your told at face value, discovery is the essence of life, we are an explorer species, this is your experience, find your own answers and in that you will find those who agree with you, but it is the ones you disagree with you will learn the most from...
  • Jan 20 2013: You wouldn't expect a sprinter to go out and run
    a race without limbering up first would you? Well,
    it's the same for the brain. Increasingly teachers are becoming aware of the
    benefits of mental warm ups in the lesson. Even
    the powers that be have latched on to it with
    "Lesson Starters" a vital part of the literacy and
    numeracy strategies. (Just make sure they don't
    last all lesson like some we have seen!) One secondary school that has introduced such
    activities across all areas of the curriculum
    reported back that the students who used to be
    late weren't late any more as they were the first
    ones to want to solve the lateral thinking
    challenge or the Dingbat put up at the beginning of the lesson as the students were coming in. It also works to reduce the 'down time' at the
    beginning of a lesson as the learners wait for
    something to happen, a time that research shows
    is a time particularly vulnerable to poor behaviour. Below are some starters that we use and
    recommend. Please feel free to use them and
    adapt them. In return, if you have some of your
    own let us know so we can add them to this page
    and help teachers by saving time and improving
    their lessons simultaneously.
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    Jan 17 2013: I would hope that is the major function of the teacher. To expect their students to question and think independently.
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    Jan 14 2013: I'm not certain this is even a question! Education is above all else about questioning and independent thinking.

    Yes, you may fill a child's head with facts, you can force them to memorize poetry and multiplication tables. But do they understand the poem? Do they understand the concept of multiplication?

    As many find out, the real learning in life often does wait until we are in a situation where we begin to explore new knowledge for ourselves. This is only possible if we have been taught how to properly learn.

    The true job of any real educator is to teach students to think; not to give them facts but to teach them how to learn, how to reason, and how to understand.

    Then again, perhaps these things cannot really be taught, perhaps they require that the individual have them as innate abilities. I do not know.
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    Jan 12 2013: I see some students have a problem with some teachers.

    I'm going to suggest a way to destabilized a teacher you think is wasting students time.

    1. Form a large study group. Make it official.
    2. Invite the teacher to a formal discussion in a none school location -- the library offers locations for this.
    3. Make sure some adults are there. Professionals in their field would be the best types.
    4. Have the list of question in hand and everyone should have a copy, Offer a copy to the teacher before the meeting.
    5. Rehearse the discussion before it actually takes place to prevent chaos.

    I assure you, the experience will create a heightened sense of value in the teachers mind of each of the students attending. Showing someone you have power and can assert it, makes them less offensive in your direction. You might even establish a rapport with the teacher and become friends.

    Action on a problem is always more productive than passively taking a brow beating, especially if that action if organized.
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    Jan 12 2013: And continue to ask questions and think independently. It will align/ally you with others who might prove useful in your quest for academic nourishment.
  • Jan 10 2013: I'm not saying I'm always right, or that every single question is valid. I too would find it unfair if people were asking questions just to be off-putting. The point of asking questions is to further our knowledge on what ever subject the lecturer is talking, and any question that falls outside this remit should be held until another time; same as with any questions that do not benefit at least the majority of the class. The right to ask questions and be thinking independently can be taken to areas outside of the classroom also. I see no reason why a student cannot look at probing material in their essays and ask probing questions, such as in the example raised by Carolyn.

    Further to this, I have also taught for a number of years, albeit not in the same arena as a University. I have been asked questions about the sport I teach whilst lecturing and have also developed my own strategies for dealing with those that aren't relevant. But I would say that the majority of the time students are asking questions to further their understanding of what I have said, and I would argue that I would not be doing my job if I denied them this knowledge

    I feel like I should also clarify a point I made previously about lecturers facilitating our learning. I do not believe that they must give us a simple answer or present a simple argument to answer a question. For a lecturer to point us in the right direction of an author who has written on the subject we are asking about, or tell us the name of a book, or even tell us that they will be pleased to talk to us at the end of the lecture would suffice. All I would say it to be told that you are wrong and your question is baseless is wrong.
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      Jan 12 2013: Mind you - That is the attitude of the teachers in my country. I had one teacher who I respected despite his shortcomings because he genuinely was prepared to 'talk' through either his or my error and you discover something so much more beautiful at the end when you discover it this way.
  • Jan 10 2013: Simple, students should be able to question anything they want. Creativity and imaginative thinking allow for a more engaged way of intrepreting ideas.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jan 10 2013: It is an interesting example...but it is only a pretend example(at least it was in your original posting, nice edit to turn fiction into an outright lie). If it actually happened, that would be something to talk about. So far, no one has given any real examples of why this entire thread has any bearing on reality.

      Bottom line is this. Academia encourages free thought and questioning like no other place on earth. We have all been to school, and we all know this to be true.
      • Jan 10 2013: I'm currently an undergraduate student at University. I have encountered lecturers and tutors who are less than open to questions. Carolyn's example is not necessarily far from the truth -- I have recently challenged the views of a lecturer, supporting my argument with academic writers, and been told that I am categorically wrong, and I'm not the only student to have found this. I'm not saying that all lecturers are like this, but those that close down questioning are undoing the work done by those who encourage it. If students feel like they are being routinely closed down, and their opinions and arguments ignored, they'll soon stop asking.

        Whilst I agree that students must ask questions to progress, it is a shame when those entrusted with facilitating learning do not encourage questions. I would suggest that lectures and seminars with two way exchanges provide the best learning, as it is these that promote new and inspired thinking.

        Furthermore, might I suggest that we have all been to different schools, in different areas, some of us in different countries following different curriculums. We have all had different teachers and our experiences are unique to us. What is true for you may not be true for us all.

        In answer to the original question, I believe that students have an absolute right to question everything. Critical thinking is vital to improving our society. University students are paying for their education, and so I believe they have an absolute right to ask anything, as it is the Universities job to facilitate them by pointing them in the right direction to find the answers to their questions.
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          Jan 10 2013: OH I see now! You think it is the INSTRUCTOR that shuts down student questions! Of course you would think that because you do not see what goes on behind the scenes.

          If I have those one or two people that sit in the front row that continually ask questions, (you all know who I am talking about. They lurk in the literal front row of every college class.) And I continue to address their questions as if they are valid, the rest of the class is stopping me in the hall, emailing me, going to my boss, giving evaluation feedback that I cannot control my class and that I have two favorite people in the front row that I pay attention to and don't pay any attention to any one else.

          And in part the rest of the class is right.

          So we quickly learn how to either leverage the questions from the front row for humor purposes or just start to ignore them. If that does not work, we will resort to whatever measures it takes to get them to be on par with the rest of the class, eg. "Good question. I would like an answer in a three page paper by next class period and you can present your findings to the class so everyone can learn." That one works like a charm.

          After all, two bad evals are not gonna look as bad as 75 bad evals. It also makes them learn to ask the RIGHT QUESTION!
        • Jan 10 2013: Rohan, did it ever occur to you that maybe you ACTUALLY WERE categorically wrong?

          Rohan said: "Carolyn's example is not necessarily far from the truth "

          Carolyn's 'example' was fiction. It was not an example at all.
        • Jan 10 2013: @Linda... I really love your stories. They are practical examples of actually teaching. They illustrate the time management constraints very well. I've often been that student up front, mostly because I love to talk!! lol but I do love it when others chime up and participate.

          I had one professor tell me later on that he loved my participation, but wanted to make sure I understood that he couldn't always call on me.. I completely understood.
        • Jan 11 2013: Much of the answer lies in the ground rules set at the beginning of a session. This way even the two at the front that wont give it a rest know where they stand. It also promotes a safe as well as comfortable environment to learn in. It protects the folks who are worried their ideas will be attacked or mocked whilst allowing the big talkers to still feel good about their participation. Remembering that we are all only human also helps.
      • Comment deleted

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          Jan 12 2013: It is it ironic that here of all places we meet the attitude that we are protesting against? the kind that makes one defensive rather than open to discussion? An ugly attitude that seems to belittle a true topic of concern into some muddy triviality?

          The world is changing. I believe that Teachers and employers once had a relationship that made us students desperate to learn - to secure a future. But Students are more and more becoming their own employers. We make the new world.

          I promise you Carolyn Statistics mean very little and I appreciate the courage it took to relate your truth.
  • Jan 8 2013: "How much of a right do students have to questioning and independent thinking?"

    From my own school experience I can say the vast majority of students are not in any position to ask critical questions. When they do ask something it's either some stupid conspiracy theory or it's so advanced that the answer doesn't fall within the scope of the class (and the student wouldn't understand it), in those cases a teacher should point the student to teaching material outside of class hours.

    "In addition: I understand teachers try to allow students to question, but sometimes are limited by the administration (and/or bureaucracy). Why is this?"

    Because otherwise you can get bogged down on some insignificant detail (sometimes the student has to have seen more of the course to understand why that detail was insignificant and you just have to force him to shut up), taking time away from other topics that have to be covered, and this impacts everyone in the class, not just the student asking the question.
    • Jan 9 2013: Very well said, John.

      Often times it isn't an issue of not wanting to create an environment that encourages the free exchange of ideas, It is more an issue of time management. There are only so many hours in the semester available to teach the materials that need to be taught.
      • Jan 9 2013: I just read your replies to others' contributions and I feel that you're forgetting something about knowledge, or really the character of knowledge. You seem to be arguing under the assumption that the professionals of our society are infallible, and therefor cannot be wrong, should never be challenged, and that students should simply accept what they are told because the adults know best. At least, that's how it sounds.

        But what of those people who pioneered those subjects that we study so devotedly? I understand that to learn "the basics" can help a student grasp established higher concepts, but a part of the deeper essence of this discussion is, arguably, questioning notions that surround the word "established". Just because a person is young does not mean that their ideas about a thing should be discounted. In my own opinion, those who seek knowledge benefit from that adventurous and naive spirit that children, who you seem to be focusing your arguments on, embody while they explore the world.

        Knowledge is not an absolute. There are different approaches to it and different answers can be found for same question. It is important to question what the adults have told us to be true for so long because if we don't, then we will come to a standstill, much the same as I wrote about earlier. If the younger generations just believe what they are told, then why bother even continuing this entire discussion? Since you're so absolutely refuting what most of the people here seem to believe, that a student should question (though we seem to disagree on the degree of questioning), then there must absolutely be merit and necessity simply within the act of questioning.
        • Jan 9 2013: I DO know what knowledge is, and it damn well isn't children that haven't learned it yet. I am all for people challenging understanding, but not from non experts....
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          Jan 9 2013: there are different types of students; degree for learning and degree for better job types.

          I remember having to field questions from students during and after class because students didn't want to ask the teacher; or how about sitting down with students and counselling or convincing them that THEY ARE good enough...

          I hate teachers but I have to deal with them for now. If I had more foresight I'd have gotten to PhD already and done my independent research. To me the only purpose teachers serve is to break the spirit of creatives and make them 'fit' for [social reality].

          My dad is trying to get me out of University for example - SO THAT I CAN GET A JOB! for chrissakes! Apparently I have everything a man could ever want... O_O - say that to say, there is hardly any room in the world for dreamers. And students who question, they are the ones who dream loudest.
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        Jan 9 2013: To Brock- What exactly is knowledge then? How are we to define it? How are we to say that one person is more knowledgeable than another? How does one acquire higher levels of knowledge to become an "expert?" How are we to prove that the knowledge one has is, in fact, unquestionable truth?

        I am not sure about your second comment above. It doesn't make sense to me why questioning should only be allowed from experts in their respective fields. The student that could be questioning may just have a misunderstanding of the subject or procedure, and so the teacher, or "expert," should then clarify the students perception logically. Then if the student does not accept the logical answer, it is the student's fault. Do you agree with this? But, is the "expert" always correct? What happens if the student asks a logical and reasonable question the "expert" cannot logically answer, or if the student is able to provide a statement or suggestion that proves to be more logical than the "expert's"? Are they still an "expert?" And if the "expert" disregards the student's statement, purely because they are a student, is logic, reasoning, and the pursuit of understanding, or what you may have called "knowledge," being upheld to be the highest purpose and end result of education? What is your opinion on these questions?

        My perception is limited, and I am aware that I could be wrong in any of the statements I have said here because of that. I have found that to be logical for me, and for everyone. That we all could always have the possibility of being wrong, even "experts." This is why one must always question one's self and have self-awareness. Therefore, I pursue understanding and logic, and am always willing to admit I am wrong when someone can show to me the fallacy I have logically, and I try to help others become aware of that fact as well. But, in this sense, I am inclined to agree with Mitchell.

        Do you think my perception is wrong? Why is this?
        • Jan 9 2013: "What exactly is knowledge then? How are we to define it?"

          It is already defined. Look it up in a dictionary.

          'How does one acquire higher levels of knowledge to become an "expert?"'

          Study what has already been learned, perhaps do additional research beyond that, take the time to comprehend the collection of facts and understand how they may relate to each other and to the rest of existence

          ."How are we to prove that the knowledge one has is, in fact, unquestionable truth?"

          Objective facts and data stand on their own. Explanations and understanding can almost never be proved, but they can be pretty obvious. Competing explanations and theories may or may not be easily proven false.

          As interesting as these questions are, they are "red herrings" to the topic at hand. There is no conspiracy to teach incorrect information. Put five PHDs in a room and they might argue amongst themselves which one is the true expert, but nobody would argue that a student that hasn't learned the objective facts and data is the expert.

          "The student that could be questioning may just have a misunderstanding of..."

          That is a perfectly valid reason for a student to ask questions. There is nothing wrong with a student trying to understand and learn the material that is being presented to them.

          "...or if the student is able to provide a statement or suggestion that proves to be more logical than the "expert's"? "

          This can happen, but it doesn't relieve the student's responsibility to learn the material. A student still must know and understand the opposing, or possibly wrong view point before they can effectively debate it. Having learned it in full, if they still think it is wrong, they should do research on it, and have that research published in a peer reviewed publication where it can be properly debated and defended by the student with people that have more than just a cursory knowledge of the subject.
      • Jan 10 2013: An expert knows all the answers if they are asked the right questions.
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          Jan 10 2013: An expert can get you an answer. It does not mean it is a correct answer. But that is why it is called expert opinion.
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        Jan 16 2013: To Brock- You did not fully answer my question. Yes, knowledge has been defined in the dictionary, but it does not explain the entire idea of what knowledge is (just as the word "justice" is defined, but the idea of what it truly is still eludes us). That is what the first question is addressing. You claimed in one of your comments to know what knowledge is. Does that mean you also understand every context of it and the idea, as a whole, of what knowledge is? If so, explain. And, if the first question was not worded right for you, I apologize.

        Also, I do not see how these questions are "red herrings" to the original question. I asked these questions as an inquiry to your comment about the idea of knowledge, which this is a highly relatable topic to the original question, and so that you could further explain your claim. I do not say there is a conspiracy to teach incorrect information either.
  • Dan F

    • +1
    Jan 7 2013: I think it is important to look at this issue from the point of view of a teacher's responsibilities. This is a particularly sensitive issue at the college level, but would apply to public school settings as well.

    Here is where a problem could develop. A teacher/ professor has limited time to present a class lesson. Done effectively, it likely helps conscience students preform better on subsequent exams over the material covered. A student who chooses to disrupt that process by interfering with the teacher time during the class becomes problematic depending on how disruptive the interference.

    I think most teachers would accept some disruption if it was thoughtful and constructive, otherwise, I'm sure they would frown on it, especially if someone is just seeking personal attention.

    Most teacher are open to comments, questions after class. If this is difficult, I would suggest you submit something in writing, my guess is the teacher will respond to you and appreciate your courtesy.

    As a student you are not your teacher's peer. There are such things are rules and reasons they come to be. A teacher does not need to account for this fact to a student.

    Your activity in TED speaks well of you. This forum allows you to be creative by questioning and commenting on issues like this one, which has generated interest. As you know, TED requires you play by some rules here as well

    This avenue of expressing yourself speaks well of you and reflects your ability to be creative. My guess is your teachers would concur.
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      Jan 9 2013: For me the Issue has never been 'time' - If you use the space to encourage, motivate and excite you would not need worry about time - Students will seek out information on their own. They would be excited by conversation, come to class prepared to debate because they trust the space as non-judgemental, an even playing ground; an open space. It (charismatic teaching) is more effective that the tyrant teacher. I promise you. Because when you ignore, cut down and make a student feel bad about themselves do you really think they are going to leave your classroom asking himself questions and seeking out questions (inadvertently studying) - no sir - they leave broken, despondent and believing that education is hard work and something to toss aside for drinking, smoking or w/e else you kids do.

      And to Brock - that statement about unnecessary and untrue.
      • Jan 9 2013: It is absolutely necessary and true.

        Consider the Dover trials over the introduction of the completely bogus "theory" of intelligent design.

        Young Earth Christian organizations have constantly tried to interfere with the teaching of science.
      • Dan F

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        Jan 13 2013: We are not leading the world in comparative student academic achievement tests, far from it. Trust me, there is a reason.

        Time is essential, as is the discipline involved in learning basic subject matter along with a good classroom atmosphere and competent teacher.

        Exams are also vital in this process. It is important to recognize student achievement in terms of grades. Isn't studying the material cover in class all about expanding a student's comprehension of that information as determined by fair and adequately tests?

        Consider the parallel relationship between a coach and a student athlete. The coach has a stop watch in one hand, a whistle in the other and often telling/yelling instructions at the student. They are not looking for a debate, but a win. They can tell when you are improving. Some teachers are better than others and that doesn't necessarily mean more likable or entertaining. It means they get better results and that is determined by student academic and/or athletic achievement. These things can be measured by exam scores, time trials, etc. You don't have to win to be noticed and acknowledged for the effort extended. You may in fact get even more attention.

        There is not much room at the top, but never underestimate the value of striving to be the best. The fact is many students don't know what they are capable of until challenged by a pro. Effective learning requires a positive attitude.

        Incidentally, getting an A in class is hard work. How else does it happen? Is that a bad thing?

        The right for students to interrupt class time could easily become more harmful than helpful. I see this as a minor student concern, but I read your posts and noticed you got some points.
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    Jan 7 2013: I can't understand why is seems to be so difficult, seeing the real answer to the question. In my opinion, it's not possible, but even necessary,obligatory and useful to ask questions about everithing. My only question is: why not to do it? And I don't think that bureaucracy doesn't allow it. Why yes?
    To ask is a very good way for learning. It only requires to be humble and to think well about what to ask.
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      Jan 8 2013: May I ask why do you think the bureaucracy does allow questioning?
      • Jan 9 2013: Are you asking him to prove every bureaucracy allows questioning? You already know the logical flaw of that request.

        YOU are the one that claims it doesn't. Show a couple of clear examples with references.
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          Jan 16 2013: To Brock- Then maybe how I worded the question was incorrect. I am not asking him to prove that every bureaucracy allows questioning, just his opinion and elaboration on that topic.

          Yes, my perception is that the bureaucracy may potentially limit questioning, in some sense (I don't know how or why), but this perception is limited since it is based on my own experience. If it is wrong, I seek to correct it.
  • Jan 7 2013: Given the mass of comments and the fact that it's very late, I'll just read them later and give you my own thoughts as they are, uninfluenced. Forgive the contractions, but I'm feeling lazy...

    Colton, I'm also a university student, and although I study English, a lot of the theory that you deal with in philosophy I also deal with in critical theory. Learning as much as we do about the nature of humanity, knowledge, thinking and such, it's inevitable that we're going to question ourselves about how much we should question, and one of the qualities that comes with the act of questioning is that it is dangerous.

    Most people who think the way we do--when I say "we" I mean radical thinkers like those of the TED community--understand that to question conventional thought and to be critical of the things we hear, see, read, etc., is a part of who we are and we should not avoid it, much less repress it. I've been fortunate enough to come to that understanding in my first year when I outright told a professor I thought she was wrong when we were discussing the character duality in Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde. Fortunately, she is an amazing educator and rather than discourage me she asked me why I thought she was wrong, but beyond that I learned that to question a supposed truth is not wrong; it is more important to question with reason and logic.

    Another important quality of the act of questioning is that the bigger the supposed truth, the more dangerous it is to question it. Consider democracy. As a Canadian, and as one who understands my country's political system, I do not find it to be democratic. I won't go into that explanation because I've only got 300 spaces left, but when I try to explain that to my family or friends, I'm met with doubt, indifference, and sometimes even anger. Canada has been run by it's current system since confederation, and it is not meant to be questioned. That's not to say I won't, but I must be ready to deal with the consequences. Pls comment.
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      Jan 7 2013: Yes, the pursuit of understanding should be why we question. And that is why "we," as you have put, question the social order of things. I, especially, question everything (even if a democratic government, such as a republic, is truly moral; alas, that is another conversation) because I hold reason, logic, and the awareness of my own ignorance to be the foundations of all my morals and beliefs. That way of life is, to my perception, not found in the mass populace, because it contradicts one's instincts and how our psychology has been wired. Therefore it is easier for one to act upon emotion, impulse, and instinct and making it difficult to live such a logical life without having people be wary of one's self. And seeming to me, that could be a reason of why questioning could be (or is) limited in the US, because some people of the bureaucracy could be acting upon emotion rather than reason? Is this speculation justified?

      Also, what is your opinion after reading the comments on this page?
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        Jan 7 2013: Is this speculation justified? Yes.

        Colton, you have raised the conversation from the bright young student in a stifled school environment such as founded in many public schools to a whole new level. So, if you haven't already, I suggest you get copies of the old "Star Trek" TV shows and get familiar with the character of alien Mr. Spock.
        He was a totally logical being and really had no moral code. He would not do an immoral act because it was illogical, not immoral. Although, he was more intelligent, more logical then the emotional, impulsive, instinctive Captain Kirk, he deferred to the Captain's solutions to the problems they encountered. Further, Captain Kirk relied on the intellect and logic of Mr. Spock in his decision making processes. Granted this was a created fiction, but unless you're an alien, you are stuck with the characteristics of Captain Kirk as are the rest of us. But, if you have the capacity to acquire the amount of knowledge to bring reasoning and logic to balance your life, you will have achieved a level most of us only aspire.
      • Jan 8 2013: My opinion still hasn't changed. It seems to me that there is some amount of separation in how much the commentators of this post believe one should question the things they learn or do in class, or their teacher for that matter, but in essence we agree that being critical is a necessary thing, even a responsibility. I still maintain that we should be considering the repercussions of critical thinking, especially when we're being critical of something that so heavily and influentially permeates the fabric of our society. We're questioning the education system right now, using reason and logic to examine the extent to which a student should truly learn, but the reality of the situation is that we're questioning societal norms and ideals that society generally holds to be true (though that does not mean everyone does). Students, especially those below a post-secondary level, generally do as they're told, or just ignore what they're told in the first place; regardless, society has developed systems that seek to provide it's self with working parts, simply for purposes of continuity. Unfortunately that has lead to a stagnation of conceptual thought, and ultimately to the stagnation of societal progression. As students, it is our responsibility to be critical of our nations, of humanity, and of ourselves, so that we can affect a certain amount of progression and change, regardless of the resistance we meet from our educational institutions or otherwise powerful organizations.

        @Mike Colera: I was just using democracy as an example. Regardless, Canada's political system being what it is, it runs based on democratic ideals and practices. We vote for MPs and our Prime Minister, and we call it democracy. So, going by the hegemonic norm that Canadians currently exist under, then Canada is a democracy simply because we have been told so since forever, regardless of whatever the conceptual ideal might be.
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          Jan 8 2013: @Mitchell. Fair enough. But I challenge your implied definition of critical thinking as to mean criticizing thinking. Why is it the responsibility of students to be critical of nation, humanity, or themselves. I stated in an earlier post that students have not a right but a responsibility to ask questions. The implication is that a student has a question to ask. Not all students ask questions, some accept the instructions given without challenge and some aren't really interested. And that is OK. I also commented on many American schools are so structured that scheduling hardly permits discussions on questions not noted on task. I further stated that students with unanswered questions may look elsewhere for answers. There is a world full of answers waiting for questions.
          I was conflicted by your concern of the stagnation societal progression, that you want to affect progression and change and you've recognized that society like people can be resistant to change... especially if comfortable. You live in one of the most free societies in the world, what would you do to make it progress? Is there a way to make it more free?
          What is your conceptual ideal?
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      Jan 7 2013: G'Day Sir:

      You must know that Canada is a constitutional monarchy, not a democracy. The USA is a constitutional republic not a democracy. I can't off handed think of a major nation that is a true democracy. There are a couple of small villages here in the US that are governed as democracies, but minor children have no vote.

      What is this fascination with democracy? Direct governing by the people? A phone call goes out to some 40 million Canadians asking them their vote on a trade deal with the USA? Who has time, the energy, the knowledge about such things. No one.
      People elect other people they respect to deal with such matters. The problem is the person I respect and elect has an entire differing point of view then the person you elect.
      So, here we are in this morass. The problem is to find a way for all these people can come together to deal with the nation's business and leave the rest of us to get on with our lives.
      The solution:
      If they can't get the nation's business done and cause the people annoyance, vote the rascals out. Keep voting them out until they get it right. Then vote them out before they get cocky and think they deserve to be there. Now that is real democracy.
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      Jan 5 2013: People seem to have less tolerance for stupidity lately. The young especially so.

      In all actuality it would go like this.

      Student: "I question that."
      Teacher: "You're not allowed."
      Student: "F U you moron ... etc"

      As people communicate more, and more quickly, it will only get worse, it will reach a point of zero tolerance and instant action. I pity the poor union teacher that doesn't adapt.
      • Jan 7 2013: Most people doing the questioning tend to be dumb, TED is a case in point where many educated people are seriously invested in their particular ideological paradigm (capitalist). This is status quo type thinking that merely reflects the rulers ideology, if you have the same ideology of your rulers, you're more often then not part of the uneducated and illiterate part of the population despite degree's you may possess.
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          Jan 7 2013: I really do not know what your point was.

          My point was simple, technology is empowering people, it has given them access to knowledge unseen since the at library at Alexandria. It has also given them less tolerance for stupidity or lies.
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          Jan 7 2013: I have no Idea why you chose me for your rant. I have zero tolerance for the irrational, the stupid, or the clueless.

          "Most people doing the questioning tend to be dumb, TED is a case in point where many educated people are seriously invested in their particular ideological paradigm (capitalist)"

          I do not know where to even begin on that ... the rest, you should seek counseling for.

          Oh, and along your lines of reasoning. Which party do you normally vote?
      • Jan 8 2013: @David

        I don't vote because I know the system is corrupt. You can't fix the problems current governments have by electoral politics. Your response just proved my point - you went into reactionary mode because you're hardcore. That is typical with most people on TED. You resorted to insults right away.

        I was just pointing out if your ideology is the same as the people you elect, it means you're probably not among the people who are intelligent and able to think critically about the world.

        If you have any historical understanding at all, all the gains have come from conflict (slavery, civil rights, etc). Rulers always resisted change in society, so status quo type thinking is usually the problem, not the solution.
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          Jan 8 2013: "Most people doing the questioning tend to be dumb"

          It is the opposite actually, the stupid people do not question. Obvious Troll is obvious.

          "TED is a case in point where many educated people are seriously invested in their particular ideological paradigm (capitalist)"

          Statement with no proof, and a total straw man.

          "This is status quo type thinking that merely reflects the rulers ideology, if you have the same ideology of your rulers, you're more often then not part of the uneducated and illiterate part of the population despite degree's you may possess."

          Rant, opinion, straw man, and contradictory to every thing I have seen at TED. People here are trying to tear down walls and are looking towards the future.

          Your second comment is just more of the same.
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    Jan 4 2013: Hi Colton, I'll bet you are amazed with all the comments on your question. It's a goodie. Let me talk to you like a grandfather. Maybe I can address your concerns. First, it is not a right, it is your responsibility for you to learn. Second, a lot of responses are from people in other countries that have better educational systems then we have here. So, they may be surprised by your question.
    Let me tell you a story. Grandfathers love to tell stories. My oldest son always asked questions, a lot of questions. He barely made it through high school with so many questions. He went to college. He consistently ran into professors who did not appreciate his curiosity. So, he changed classes. He changed many classes. He spent 12 years as an undergraduate student. He acquired hundreds of undergraduate credits. Finally, the University told him to declare a major and graduate. He did.
    So, why this tale, that is the rest of the story. You see, he became a teacher. He teaches in a public school for "difficult" students. The rest of this story is his. He loves to teach, he wants questions and he wants to answer, but...
    he can't. The school gives him detailed lesson plans, with the prescribed questions and desired answers. There are the workbooks specifically to instruct the students to be successful on the state required exams. There are no allowances for deviations. On a recent occasion, he finished the required sessions early, so he opened the class to other subjects... he was caught. He explained hat he had finished the required work and was using the time to expand on his students experiences. He was told that if he had sped though work, he was to go back and repeat the lesson to the end of class. You see the problems here. Your teachers aren't bad, they maybe restricted by their employment. They may even be resentful if you push them to do something they can't.
    So, what to do. Become self taught. The world of information is out here. You can do it.
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        Jan 4 2013: To Carolyn- I have read many of your comments and I think your issue is with administration and curriculum, am I correct? I do not wish at all to leave any comment I have with implied information so I can properly address your point. All I ask is what you are specifically trying to address?
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      Jan 4 2013: Did I understand you correctly that the school gives your son detailed lesson plans? That is very different from the situation in the UK. I don't think I could work in such a prescriptive environment; you need to be able to go off topic and be flexible. Although it is hard to do that as much as I would like.
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      Jan 4 2013: To Mike- I see your point, I agree, and that is my question. It is not with the teachers themselves, but their administration. From my own educational experience (yes, it is a small perspective), that it is because of the structure set forth by the administration that can potentially limit students in their pursuit of understanding.

      Unfortunately, that is how many public schools are ran here in the US, well at least mine. The administration gives teachers a curriculum they can barely waiver from, if at all, and must teach them sometimes in specific ways.
      Also, I always am pursuing to be self taught and self-aware in order to understand.

      If I need to edit the description of the question I will do so.
  • Jan 4 2013: Just like some great responses here, I think students have absolute rights to question.
    If this idea makes us raise a question like yours, then I assume it is a matter of a teacher's capability.

    As an instructor, I often see some students who question willy-nilly while trying to ruin the class atmosphere—intentionally or otherwise.
    Sometimes their questions are very embarrassing. You know, something far from what they should care about in the class.
    I believe, depending on how old they are, the way to answer their questions should be different.
    And I think we should know that teachers don't necessarily need to answer all their questions 'cause teachers aren't perfect. They lack many things especially when it comes to other subjects.
    Any instructors or teachers need to encourage their students to be inquisitive as they should be, but for those who teach, there are some strategies to induce students to raise critical questions.
    Within the limitation of the time of one class, an instructor has a responsibility to lead the class into what he wants his students to learn about. Teaching students how to raise a better question would also be one of effective, yet wise ways of managing a class.

    I'm not saying that teachers should manipulate students' will. Teachers must not oppress their students' inquisitive desires, rather, teachers should encourage their students to be more active and creative.

    There's no such thing as a common sense in terms of teaching students. And I believe there shouldn’t be because it might make teachers more authoritarian.
    Just some positive, educational strategies. That would be enough.
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      Jan 3 2013: As a part of the seemingly maligned and tainted profession you so eloquently detest I would like to ask you both what you do and what can be done in more general terms to fix the system as you see it? I know I am far from perfect, and any teacher who tells you they haven’t pressed on through a few questions to hit a learning objective or finish what they felt they had to in the given time is lying. Of course there are outdated and perhaps even harmful modalities, but I think you are tarring a great many people with the same brush here. But at least we are rolling our sleeves up and trying; it’s very easy to throw stones from the sidelines.
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          Jan 4 2013: I don't know any professional who would teach or omit those things, I certainly wouldn't. Although I don't think I would laided the children I teach with the guilt you imply; rather help them to see through history and recognise interconnectedness, causation and that it was often written by both the victors and/or people who had their own agenda when writting it. I think you do us a disservice suggecting that we do not teach about those things that might be uncomfortable.
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        Jan 4 2013: To James- To answer your question, I am a college student majoring in philosophy and psychology, and have asked this question to this community to better understand the subject of education. I mean to seek unbiased understanding, not to display disrespect to those in the field. Also, I have found a community of thinkers and questioners that seek what is true in this online community, and I am ecstatic. But many of the people in my area I have met, some of which are educators, allow students to question the subject as much as they wish, but once the teaching and education structure itself is questioned, they will not allow the students to question any further. Why is this? Is this right? Or is my perspective flawed?
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          Jan 4 2013: Apologies Colton, my comment was aimed more as a response to Carolyn's post rather than to your question. I think you have a point and it is a worthwhile issue for debate.

          I think the problem is a systemic one; I often feel constrained by the curriculum not supported. It seems that there is a view of education based of a transmitted model of learning, i.e. if you know a certain number of facts you are educated. Those who dictate policy are reluctant to listen to professionals because a certain quarter of the electorate have a very outdated view of learning and any sort of break from the traditional policies of the past gets stirred up in the media as new fangled hippy nonsense.

          As professionals we have to grasp every opportunity we can to empower learners to ask questions and explore their own curiousities; a move to enquiry based learning is a move in the right direction in my opinion.

          In answer to your intial question, yes learners do have a right to question and independent thought and in my opinion this right superceeds the right of policy makers to dictate to us what the template of an "educated" person looks like.
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      Jan 4 2013: I am sorry there is no way to prove you wrong. Your perception of a system philosophically based on a sexist racial supremacy is your perception. No one can change what you see. I see something else. I see a system of organizations that are charged with providing immature adults from a young age, the knowledge to become fully functional adults upon maturation. Schools. The primary knowledge givers, teachers, are a large group of professionals, some are extremely competent, some bad, most are dedicated and do the best they can. I believe that the reason so many of our schools fail the students rest more with mismanagement. The school bureaucracy is more centered on it's own survival that educating young adults, but that is another story..
      You sounded so angry at not being taught about all the inhumanity fostered on humanity. I would tell you that that may have been a kindness by all those adults around you. Consider. You are a young adult in middle school. You are dealing with puberty and all the physical and emotional trauma that brings. Did you really want to sit in class and discuss murder, mayhem and all those issues you addressed? You did finally learn about the real world probably at a more mature time in your life when you were better able to address these issues and their meanings. I would contend that the adults in your young life protected you from the harsh realities of life, maybe out of love...
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    Jan 3 2013: Oh students can question but sometimes that needs to be put aside and a student must trust the instructor.

    I teach in higher ed and there are many many rules that must be followed in what I teach. Everything from how students dress to how they act. There are reasons why those rules exist and the student will come to understand them eventually. But I cannot take all the time in the beginning to explain the heck out of everything. They have to have faith that I know what I am doing and why I am doing and that understanding will come eventually.

    Once they have access to most of the information they need to make professional decisions, I have to push for questioning and independent thinking. There is safety in rules you know. But I also know, even then, they have limited experience and it is only with experience that wisdom is achieved.
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    Jan 3 2013: Questioning and independent thought are some of the most important dispositions education should cultivate. Can there be the slightest controversy in this?

    Or is your question specifically about use of class time and whether students should hear each other and the teacher out for a few minutes rather than interrupting every sentence?
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      Jan 4 2013: I believe I would like to direct the flow of thought two your second statement. What is your opinion of that?
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        Jan 4 2013: I think Linda, whose comment is above, has provided a beginning along those lines that you may want to pursue.

        I think there is a great problem in many areas of interaction that people of every age often do not listen open-mindedly to other people's ideas and give those ideas a chance. There can be no bigger obstruction to learning than this.

        People who learn really to consider other people's ideas have a tremendous advantage as lifelong learners and those who seek only to talk or to find little errors while "throwing the baby out with the bath water" are often left with a highly biased view spilling over with misconceptions.
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    Gail .

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    Jan 3 2013: I hope things have changed since I was in school. I remember in 6th grade (1962), Mr. A took the class outside. He had a bucket of water. He wanted to teach us about gravity. He swung the bucket around so that the centrifugal force caused the water to move to the back of the bucket, and no water came out. He said that is how gravity works.

    Many of us were laughing to ourselves, but no one dared speak up. But at lunch, we laughed. We reasoned that if that is how gravity works, then we should all by flying off into space because the earth is turning fast - or we should all be living in caves and walking on the ceiling (the idea of which brought great amusement).

    I remember learning about Pavlov and wondering if I should stand up and ask the teacher why teachers punish kids who don't behave if negative reinforcement is not a positive behavior modifier, but I was unwilling to face my parent's wrath if they heard about my disrespect of a teacher.

    ALL of my memories of school are horrible. It was a time of continual emotional AND INTELLECTUAL abuse. What a shame, because I have such a high IQ. All those years spent learning how to not-question and to not-think!

    I learned to read as if by osmosis. Words just came to me. I knew it but didn't know how or why. I just know that I was often chastised for reading ahead when someone who couldn't read was sounding out words like "cat". I read my first reader in the first reading class and was punished for that. When I asked a question about math, I was told that I would learn about that next year (or in two years).

    It was a time of great emotional cruelty. I knew in 2nd grade that something was very wrong with the practice of my being required to call my teacher Mrs. Name but she called me by my first name. Even at this age, I knew that I was being talked down to and disrespected.

    Now I know that education gives students a low-EQ, and that blocks creativity.

    (I had a life-changing awakening in 1984)
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    Jan 3 2013: what the heck? in what degree someone should be able to ... question things? i hope thought police is not yet established, is it?
  • Jan 3 2013: As far as they can take it.
    If it doesn't make sense, question it until it does.
    If it is illogical, challenge it until it is logical.
    If it isn't true, find the truth.

    We repeat the past BECAUSE we are told to remember it! (those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it)

    You cannot repeat what you cannot or do not remember, so that requires questioning and thinking very differently, new and uniquely, and not just blindly repeating what has been done and has been proven not to work.

    That is definitive. Take a look at where we are, and what our problems are, and it has all been through repetition and trusting the unjust system we have had.

    It is hard to question if the desire of the brainwashed masses is only to repeat (keep what they are familiar with and thus, insanely comfortable with), and it is hard to get new ideas and ways of thinking into the public consciousness when so many falsely believe what we have had for so long has been working! It has been failing, and is now almost completely broken. Meaning, unfixable. A new, just system needs to be built and that will require thinking, questioning and doing that which is quite different.

    The status quo has to be challenged, questioned and the answers have to be truthful, transparent and inclusive of all.
    The answers have to provide solutions, justice, fairness, compassion and all the things an unjust system cannot provide because it is unjust and providing those is not a goal of any unjust system.
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      Jan 11 2013: Mr. Chance,

      You state: "If it doesn't make sense, question it until it does.
      If it is illogical, challenge it until it is logical.
      If it isn't true, find the truth."

      Would you agree that simply questioning a matter might not, somehow, yield an answer? Is there, perhaps, more effort needed in a different direction (experimentation, perhaps) to find answers?

      Is it possible to find yourself in an endless loop if you merely challenge illogical ideas until they become logical?

      If it is not the truth, how do you persuade others that the truth has not been revealed and there is more discovery yet to do?

      You cannot challenge the status quo, properly, unless you already have the truth in hand. By using the currently accepted system of persuasive techniques, it should be no problem, barring physiological bias, to convince others of the truth, presupposing the truth, as you understand it, is indeed the truth.

      I would offer the system is not broken, so much as the participants do not all operate on the same page, with parallel understanding of the subject being debated or questioned.

      It's very easy to observe the sky is blue based on an accepted understanding of what blue is. It is an entirely different matter to explain why it is blue. It is easy for us to agree on many common matters but not so easy to explain the deeper controversies that lead to the truth of why something is the way it is. If your audience can only agree on the color of the sky you have little hope of using questions or logic to educate them to the reason why. A person must first be prepared to understand the truth before they can understand and accept it.
      • Jan 12 2013: John: I am inclined to take your inquiry even further and ask, "How do we know something is 'true'?" I begin my first day of classes by asking students to come up with as many statements as they can that they believe convey "absolute truth" -- meaning, the statement is true in all place, in all times, and for all people. EVERY semester, one of those statements that I write on the board is "The sky is blue". Your insight that something is "true" if we can all agree to "an accepted understanding" of the terms being used, but many of my students have not been taught to understand that concept about language and definition of terms. This is a core component of teaching students to question no? -- to ask, "What do you mean by blue?" or "What do you mean by the sky?" At a very fundamental level, students have not been taught to question language itself. When I do this first-day exercise, it is not to undermine the "truths" they believe but instead to attempt to change the starting position from one where they believe they know the truth and must learn how to convey it (which often shuts down productive discussion or causes them to dismiss the "truths" of others) to one where they question WHY they believe something to be true and the nature of truth itself as a goal of learning.
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          Jan 12 2013: @ Tracy Thornton,
          "Your insight that something is "true" if we can all agree to "an accepted understanding" of the terms being used, but many of my students have not been taught to understand that concept about language and definition of terms." ~ Tracy Thornton

          This is not my insight Tracy. At least I was not trying to imply such a thing.

          The image of truth(truth as we see it) and the nature of truth (truth as it stands in relation to the ultimate truth, whatever that is), are two different animals. As a teacher, you are aware we can never answer the question of "what is truth" in this short discussion area.

          My point to Mr. Chance was to highlight the fact that using too simple an approach to discerning the truth of a matter might not necessarily lead to the truth and, also, that sometimes, trying to reveal the truth is wasted on some people. There are some (many) people who are so entrenched in their self-bias, and limited knowledge, that, if you really know the truth of a matter, you may never convince them of it. Spiritualism as bias and never attending school as ignorance of a subject, are two examples.

          The truth itself, under some circumstances, can morph into a single event or image, where we see it differently than it really is. The truth -- light is white-- is an example. We know the color of light and we see it, but in truth, light is a collection of different frequencies (perceived as colors, if we look more deeply). What we see as a star in the sky can actually be a whole galaxy of stars.

          Revealing the truth to other people -- given that you really really know the truth -- can be a daunting task and may not, necessarily, be accomplished by following a small set of rigid techniques. That is my suggestion to Mr. Chance, Tracey. Logic, in and of itself, under some circumstances and when applied to certian instances, may not lead to the truth of a matter or thing. Some truths are unknowable at this time

          So, you are a teacher?
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    Jan 3 2013: What reason do we have to trust the past? It has given way to all the plights of today. New ways of thinking are always required to suit the day. Steve Jobs innovated more off his own initiative than every highly educated tech-guru before him (and any after him.) The role of school, in my mind, is to awaken the human spirit. No student should ever -- EVER -- be punished for disagreeing with the curriculum (in a respectful way, of course.)
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      Jan 11 2013: Mr. Hall,
      I like the fact you make a note of the fact there are acceptable ways to disagree with the curriculum.

      I agree with your suggesting the the role of school is to awaken the human spirit. My Calculus professor once told me that the purpose of college was not to educate people but to teach then the necessary skills to critically examine their Universe and decisively find the truths that answer their questions.

      His implication was that a college education is the starting point for learning on your own. I might add that he was a Navy dive bomber pilot, who participated in the Battle of Midway, one of my role models.

      His only rule in class, relating to questions, was that it pertain to the subject being taught and not be of an extraneous nature.
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    Jan 3 2013: They should be allowed to question everything. "No way of thinking, however ancient, can be trusted without proof." -- Henry David Thoreau.
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    Jan 29 2013: I completely agree with Sir Ken Robinson. Both of his TED Talks are right on. Schools need to be set up differently and I hope the revolution he talks about is already implemented. Students have every right to questioning and independent thinking. However, just like we first must learn the alphabet and words and grammar before we can write our own original essay, just like we must learn musical notes, cords, harmonics, etc and learn by copying masters before we can compose our original piece of music, it is essential to assimilate collective knowledge that is accumulated by millions of other thinkers, questioners and tinkerers who came before us, before we take off on the road of independent thinking... otherwise we might just end up re-inventing the wheel:-) (This is just my thinking and I hope it is helpful:-)
  • Jan 20 2013: in answer to the second paragraph its because the government controls how we are taught.
  • Jan 17 2013: Students, I believe, should have an absolute right to question anything they want. They also have an absolute right to have their questions answered. If a teacher or mentor does not know the answer it is their duty to assist the student in finding it.

    Limits by the 'administration' must, surely, be down to the financial burden of dealing with a school full of inspired kids incessantly firing questions at increasingly beleaguered teachers?
  • Jan 16 2013: I agree and disagree with several previous statements.

    Children, In my opinion, should not only be allowed to question their environments, but they should be encouraged to do so. Curiosity is a wonderful motivator and teacher, and when children want to learn, that's when things really start to stick in their minds.

    I personally am an advocate of private and charter schools. The fact of the matter is. that in the case of a teacher. a better paid teacher will bring about the expectation of a better education.

    I am not demeaning public school teachers in any way. I have nothing but the highest respect for teachers in general, however, in a public school system the money comes from the government. The government cares almost exclusively about results, specifically results which they can show to the public that they are doing something with their taxpayer dollars.

    As a result, we have standardized tests. The school needs to show the government that they are doing a good job through the use of these tests, and so they place importance on them via the teachers. The teachers need to have the students do well on the tests in order to show the school they are doing their job.

    Which brings us to our current problem.

    Private schools, because they (usually) don't depend on government money to operate, are able to use different methods of teaching, putting emphasis on other ways of learning besides those focused on in standard tests.

    Education, even public education isn't free. It could be an idea to put more tax dollars into public schooling, thus enabling the better payment of teachers and so attracting more people to teaching jobs. But I just don't see that happening.

    To return to the original question, I think that children should be encouraged to question a point as far as they can. Some children, the ones who ask the question, "why" over and over are the ones who, in the end, will know the answers to questions the contented children never even thought to ask.
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    Jan 14 2013: This is not a comment, it is a notification. I have not had access to the internet due to some inconveniences in four days, and now I will try to address as many comments posted between here and then starting with the ones posted four days ago, and I sincerely apologize to those that who wrote some to me.
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    Jan 12 2013: Yet no one is whining besides yourself and Brock. That last post was coherent, thoughtful and a legible argument as opposed to a one sided self serving attempt at belittling another person. And I appreciate it. If something is being said enough times Ms. Taylor, then there IS something wrong. And I promise, there are going to be MORE who will (say) it. It is a student's reality and diplomacy works so much better when hoping to achieve a compromise (solution).

    As well, there is the matter of students simply not knowing. I remember my mother not allowing me to skip ahead when I was younger. A working class mother who knew no better. She was scared. Still I graduated early.

    At uni, I told my profs I'd be willing to take exams or w/e to show that I knew material - they wouldn't allow it. So some of us are not given options. There are many sides to some single situations. So my past credits, diplomas and what not somehow could not get me exempt from subjects I had already done.

    When people begin 'to defend' themselves it must be because they feel attacked. Some teachers make the mistake of promising more than 50% of the students are going to fail such and such course - Or perhaps making certain evaluations and discussing them with other students? Could it be that some students are more sensitive to how the academically inclined is treated and how the 'not so inclined' is treated? Apprehension is real evidence of something. don't ignore it.

    That said. Many of us students enter into university not with the expectation that we are going to be taught by persons who know little to nothing about the profession we are getting into. So it hardly needs to be said; ' that you know more than they/we do'. But do appreciate that some of us struggle with our own individual circumstances, as do you, and education needs not become adversarial but can be arbitrarily executed.

    I wish you love and life.
    And I hope that we can part on a favourable note.
    • Jan 13 2013: Actually, everyone is whining for no real reason with the exception of a few...

      This entire conversation is a non-issue dilemma that simply doesn't exist in any significant way. Academia encourages free thought and questioning like no other place on the planet. That is the real reason some want to undermine education with non-sense like this.
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    Jan 12 2013: Dear Colton,
    I felt as though my initial intention somehow got lost in muddy dialogue. I would like to answer your question; It is my answer after several years feeling as you have felt and voicing that feeling in vain.

    Students have an ABSOLUTE right to question and think independently. However, one must never intentionally appear naive. The schooling system is as much a BUSINESS as is every other institution. There are few that will appreciate that passing an exam (barely or brilliantly) does not always suffice. And that being able to 'make the grade' is not equivalent with understanding. However, this is the general notion of the world. And when a minority stands up. It will be shown to be the aggressor. And aggression is never met with a level head. Be wise about pursuing your furtherance.

    However, I feel that for those of us who truly enjoy learning. For those of us who learn at a quicker rate than others and who fear becoming complacent - there are 'ways to cheat' or alternative methods of feeding our enthusiasm. There is the internet (open-ware is becoming very popular!), as well, make friends with those students who have passed on to the year above you or perhaps seek out a pen pal/ chat pal. In your spare time, ask them questions or ask for direction with regard to your own private research. I have sought out mentors who I felt might be able to answer some of my questions. There are also some unexpected treasures you may come across. Beware that you may face a similar attitude from MOST persons older than you but not all. Be patient and you'll find the clues you need to discovering academic fulfilment. This conversation should enlighten you, however, to the fact that education is not the democracy we would hope it is. If all the answers were offered to you freely there would be little reason for tuition or for a masters degree and of course 'no way to separate the weak from the strong' - an archaic abstract that persists today.

    I wish you luck.
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    Jan 11 2013: As a school going teenager I'd like to put forth the idea that a student needs to prove themselves or earn the right to question.

    I realize it sounds a little conformist but children truly do take advantage of this so called right
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      Jan 11 2013: how?
    • Jan 12 2013: Joshua: I am not sure what you mean unless what you are pointing to are situations where students ask questions frivolously -- e.g., for reasons other than a desire to learn or make a sincere inquiry, or, for example, in my college classrooms, where part of their grade is tied to their participation in class discussions. I know the common wisdom is that "There are no stupid questions", but there have been times when I question a student's sincerity, or when a student asks questions out of an unwillingness to read thoroughly information I've already given them or look up information to which they have access. However, i have to say -- the problem that concerns me more than students "taking advantage" of their right to ask questions, is that too often, students DON'T ask questions they sincerely have -- for a variety of reasons -- even though they have a variety of mediums they can use to ask questions. Even shy students who are less comfortable speaking up in class don't use less intimidating channels like email or office hours to ask legitimate, sincere questions. This makes it incredibly difficult at times to gauge student understanding.

      Is this what you mean by "taking advantage"?
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    • Jan 12 2013: The way you originally wrote it, it seemed pretty clear that it was fiction. But even if the story is true, academia still encourages free thought and questioning like no other place on earth. We have all been to school, and we all know this to be true.
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        • Jan 13 2013: There is no conspiracy of disinformation in academia. There are, however, people who fear education for political and religious reasons for the simple fact that education actually does encourage questioning, free thought, and most importantly, standards of evidence.

          "would all teachers acknowledge other ways of quantifying knowledge"

          What other ways would you suggest? Faith?

          "...consider alternative narritives about history,politics,socialcustoms,value placed on their work?"

          Consider the "Stork theory" of birth... Not every absurd position deserves serious consideration. With that said, subjects like history and politics can be presented in objective ways. Unfortunately for some positions, facts aren't always flattering.
  • Jan 10 2013: If you can, please explain to me the difference between right and correct. Also, if you can, please provide an example of independent thought.

    In addition: Why is why; which is more often then not, answered with because?
  • Jan 10 2013: It has been said that there is no such thing as a stupid question, you have proven them wrong!
  • Jan 9 2013: If we really want to encourage more dialog in class, we MUST focus on class size. There really isn't any other way.For those who really insist on this....You need to do just one simple thing:

    Tell your congressman/legislator to increase funding for education.
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    Jan 9 2013: Perhaps it would be helpful for this discussion to define the terms "teacher" and "student" !
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    Jan 9 2013: Not sure if right is the best word.

    Suggest it is a matter of balance. Having some time for question and debate is generally positive, aids learning, thinking, and may make it more interesting.
    But still need to get through the curriculum.

    Sorry if I missed it but what fallacies are you referring to.
  • Jan 8 2013: My teachers dont encourage questions. They tell us their point of veiw and move on, even disregarding our opinions when we do care enough to speak up. We had 'conversation lessons' in PSE when we were learning about laws, graffiti, under age drinking etc but when we contributed the teacher told us we were wrong and acted like it was our fault that young people break the law. I believe children should be treated like audlts and allowed to ask.
    • Jan 9 2013: " I believe children should be treated like adults and allowed to ask."

      Are they adults?

      Children are smart, but they can still be wrong. It isn't surprising that you may have felt like the teacher was blaming young people for breaking the law - the topics you listed ARE young people crimes. However, it may actually be you that misunderstood the point. You took a conversation on young people crimes and inappropriately extended it to include ALL crime. It could also be your teachers fault too for not clarifying it. It is hard to know, given very little information.
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        Jan 9 2013: This is hilarious. I remember when my kids were young, they went through the typical three year old questioning stage. "Why mommy, why?" Well it was a fun and interesting game and it passed a lot of time in the car. "Mommy, why is the sky blue?" Because the sky contains many water molecules and the refraction of light...."
        But as the children got older, they stopped asking. They said it was because they really didn't want to know anyway.
        Like I said, it is never about the answers. It's about asking the right question.
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      Jan 9 2013: Brock Hardwood i think it unfair that you'd make blind assumptions like the ones above - Are you a teacher? You must be a teacher... You have the attitude of a teacher; judgemental, (Ruthless), forceful, inconsiderate, selfish and unnecessary...

      And how does it feel sir? lol Common dude. there is no need to rebut EVERY single complain with some half attempt at defending DEAD pedagogy. Passion is lost from education. We accept it and have moved on. The smart ones are the ones who remember what they want and why they want it.

      Please stop it. The funniest thing about University is that we enter into the uni seeking independence. And it is there we lose it. Our self esteem is shattered. We're constantly wondering what teachers think of us, how it affects our grades - did we read the right books at the right time - was the paragraph long enough, legible, black white grey, do we question or do we repeat? Strangest experience ever.
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        Jan 9 2013: Here is a little reality check. Those of us at the uni just really don't know enough about any student to really think about them. Classes can range for 10 to 350 and I can tell you we are just not that in to you. One of the things we have to teach as professors is that you are NOT the center of the universe like your parents think you are. You can call it judgmental or ruthless or inconsiderate, but for most of you it is your first dose of real world. Boo hoo on your poor self esteem. Your boss will not care and we are not doing you any favors if we mollycoddle you. You have a bigger issue if your self esteem is tied to, of all things, school. If you fail the class, get up dust yourself off, and RETAKE it. Man up dude.

        Your grades are what you earn. Nothing more. We do not grade by if we like you. We give you rubrics on how things will be graded and options to speak with us if you have any questions. My job as a student is to find out what my professor wants and give it to her. (Yes, I am also a student.)

        My pedagogy is not dead. We teach future professionals and are current to within 5 years. I have been in my profession for over 35 years and I know what it takes to be a professional. My students DO NOT write paragraphs. They write papers and they had better be professional. You boss WILL NOT ask you to write a paragraph but a data driven report. You cannot know what we know so find your legs as a student. Or as you stated above, you can whine to daddy and maybe he can get you a job.
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          Jan 9 2013: My dear Linda Taylor, You are mistaken if you think my self esteem shattered. You also drip with bitterness, much like the [dude] and system you are defending. I have always known my job 'as a student' and have done very well - surprising most when I list my accomplishments - academic and extra-curricular. Knowing how to garner marks, understanding how a flawed system functions, in no way means that I ignore that it is a flawed system.

          So your response to me asking mr Hardwood to NOT be judgemental is to BE judgemental - condescending, presumptuous - comparing me to a child much like my own nephew who I helped raise? Or how about suggesting that reality is stagnant and that we are subject to it regardless of our own experiences? No, We are not the creators of our own shape, space and direction but must learn to adhere to the world our boss lays before us? Perhaps the most flawed in all of your little rant is the implication that somewhere in the teacher's job description there are the words - 'act like the meanest coldest unlikeable and unreasonable sod boss there ever was so the child learns to deal with the pressures of the world' - and then assuming that I have been 'mollycoddled'? Me, putting myself through school makes me mollycoddled then? Or perhaps it was when I got that job at the age of fifteen to help my brothers finish secondary education? perhaps it was when I offered to raise my brother's children? No It might be having to teach my younger brothers so thet they'd get into a decent school?... Divulging any more is beneath me. As for you and Hardwood; I suggest you revisit those same professors you defend and love and enrol yourselves in a course in tact, decency and just good common sense.
        • Jan 10 2013: OK, Chosen Pen....If you hate our education system or the fact that anyone is educated at all...

          What do you propose as an alternative?

          And please, by all means, tell us how it will prepare young minds for the 21st century economy...

          As for tact....Some people actually do need to be treated like idiots, because they are, in fact, idiots. That, or they have a BS agenda to stop the teaching of science, so their pathetic religious world view can survive.
      • Jan 9 2013: "Brock Hardwood i think it unfair that you'd make blind assumptions like the ones above"

        Underage drinking is not a young person's crime? It is practically the definition of it. There was nothing blind about my assumption. Come on Chosen Pen, even you are smart enough to figure that out.

        "You have the attitude of a teacher; judgemental, (Ruthless), forceful, inconsiderate, selfish and unnecessary..."

        Most teachers are anything but those things. As for unnecessary...Why do you prefer an uneducated world? Is it destroying your church?

        Education is important. Those who are truly independent see education as a tool to further their independence. Others see it as a means of getting a better, more rewarding job. Some people take classes for fun, like an art class or an automotive class.

        "We're constantly wondering what teachers think of us, how it affects our grades - did we read the right books at the right time..."

        Yes, students must WORK to get a degree. Get over it.

        "we enter into the uni seeking independence. And it is there we lose it. Our self esteem is shattered."

        And yet, YOU still feel you are independent, and I'm sure your self esteem is still intact. You would be hard pressed to show that statement was actually true with anyone that did the work to earn a degree. Your argument is anecdotal at best, with no supporting data.
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          Jan 9 2013: @ Chosen Pen
          It was your posting that I was addressing. Why did you post that if it was not true? See Brock's post.
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    Jan 8 2013: Students have an absolute right to questioning and to independent thinking as do we all. The main thing I teach is writing, which is arguing, which requires questioning. "High stakes" testing does not provide me or my students with incentives to deal with abstractions or philosophy, but my obligation as an educator does. I can lead a discussion that winds up with my students writing their opinions, even if they disagree with me. In fact, I encourage them to disagree (respectfully, of course) with their classmates and me and to question things we often take for granted. If I do my job as I should, then my students will come out of my class with the ability to think independently and logically.

    There are some unfortunate limitations, though. I can encourage my students to question what they are being taught in a history class, but unless that teacher also encourages such questioning, then there will be trouble. I also recognize that what I assign my students to read reflects certain biases and assumptions from me or my school district. My literary choices are limited by availability and the district's willingness to support my choices. Also, I am very careful to keep my own beliefs and opinions to myself so that I don't read them in my students' arguments. I don't want a room full of little "me"s; I want a room full of thinkers.

    The reality is that the educational system is not geared toward what I want to do in my class. I am supposed to teach British literature in lock step with two other teachers who don't want to assign much writing (because it takes so much time and effort to evaluate) and want to give objective, recall-type assessments (because they are quick and easy to grade). I will continue to teach Macbeth, however, and ask my students to defend the actions of the title character, to argue why we should not study the play, to discuss the universal appeal of the play (and whether or not it actually has any).
    • Jan 8 2013: Sure, You are the ONLY teacher that cares about teaching.

      So what parts of history do you want the students to question? What makes them subject matter experts in the first place?
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      Jan 9 2013: so basically the defeat of the teachers trickles down into the classroom? I can believe that.
      • Jan 10 2013: What is your alternative to education, and how will it prepare young minds for the 21st century economy?

        Or perhaps, you think the rapture is at hand? lol
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          Jan 13 2013: i wonder if my friend here knows I'm an atheist! LMAO. I love you too eh Brock. Yuh so smexcii!
      • Jan 13 2013: You still didn't answer the question. What is your alternative to education, and how will it prepare young minds for the 21st century economy?
  • Jan 8 2013: @Mike Colera: You made a few good points there Mike. And I should probably change my wording a bit, but I can't think of a more succinct way to give a one word name to the act of questioning and the process involved. Is it not from being critical and curious about a subject that an engaged student would then begin to ask questions? Not to discount truth and fact, 1 + 1 does, in fact, equal 2, but when you consider other mathematical concepts and explanations then the question become, does 1 + 1 actually equal 2? There is a 14 year old mathematical genius who is currently attempting to disprove one of Einstein's theories, one that has be held to be true for decades. Being critical of the knowledge we are exposed to helps us not only determine the truth of those knowledges, but also helps us extend our curiosity beyond those truths, and sometimes into realms that are new and exciting and revolutionary.

    As for freedom and democracy, my own conceptual ideal is one where social inequality is at a minimum. That is not to say that I'm a socialist, although I might be somewhat more liberal than other Canadians (although that is a trend between young and old generations), but there is a certain amount of unaccountability within Canadian politics that leaves a great deal of Canadians without a life that can be called a good life. Currently, capitalism and the democracy practiced in most developed countries embody the characteristic of exploitation. Someone or something must be at the bottom so that the rest can benefit. Is that ethical? Is that moral? Is that right? Is that not just the question "If you could kill someone to cure all disease, would you?", but answered?

    In my opinion, there needs to be a radical rethinking of how we practice politics and economics. Capitalism and democracy are simply ideas; there are better systems to discover and implement that will benefit, maybe not everyone, but definitely more people.
    • Jan 10 2013: "There is a 14 year old mathematical genius who is currently attempting to disprove one of Einstein's theories, one that has be held to be true for decades."

      Don't you think this might be a little bit more persuasive if he actually did disprove it? I think you are counting your chickens before they
      • Jan 10 2013: The point is that he's trying, which is integral to progression. Really, it seems like you're actively trying to miss the point of this thread...
        • Jan 10 2013: This thread has NO point...It doesn't even describe a real dilemma. Academia is one of the most thought encouraging areas in all of our existence.

          The original author has never provided one single example of this supposed issue ever really happening. He has provided zero examples of bureaucracy hamstringing dialog because it simply doesn't happen outside of prohibiting religious discussion.
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        Jan 16 2013: To Brock- Yes, Academia's purpose is to encourage thinking, understanding, and questioning. But my question is if, and how, it is actually being accomplished, within every area of it, from the subjects to the procedures. The example I know of is my own experience, and since it is anecdotal, I do not wish to state it or base a stance on it, and I wish to find what the truth of this situation is. This is why this thread is a "Question" not a "Debate."
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    Jan 8 2013: Because, in my opinion, bureaucracy must stop before classroom's door. Indoors, the teacher and the students are (or at least they should be) the masters of their common time and space. Bureaucracy's kingdom is not indoors (classroom). Even if -surely it's possible- in an indirect way (budgets, rules), they could make some influence on what happen indoors, it's clear that the relations among the people into the classroom is sacred.
  • Jan 8 2013: It's a loaded question. Students should always question and think independently. When, where and how to question is the role of education. Education, done correctly, provides an environment to efficiently learn (cognitive) and to help students know when a verbal response or inquiry helps the group learn (social). It is the cost or the benefit between the group and the individual that is the question.
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      Jan 11 2013: I think that yours is an elegant way to explain the main side ot the question.
  • Jan 7 2013: Students should question and the more independent their thinking, the more they should be encouraged. I think one of the primary duties of a teacher is to help students develop this questioning mentality. We should guide them to ask questions that lead to other questions and teach them the importance of questioning. Trivial questions which are only asked for effect or to hog the limelight may be discouraged. The level of a classroom discussion can rise greatly with thinking questions. I try to answer my students' questions, but I also encourage them to look for their own answers. I think youngsters nowadays are much more aware of the world around them and I am happy to seek answers from them myself. As a teacher of 26 years teaching experience, I think it is my students' questions that keep me mentally alert. I feel happy if a student corrects any mistake I make - he was definitely paying attention!
    Yes, the national curriculum that we teach in our school restricts what we teach and I am extremely unhappy about it. All history syllabi in India end with the achievement of independence in 1947, or at the most, with the death of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964. We are now in 2013, the students' grandparents were small children when we achieved independence so how can we then expect them to develop any interest in the subject if they cannot relate to it? We do not teach them any history that belongs to their own times.
    However, no one in my school restricts the method in which this curriculum is transacted, so I have the freedom to encourage as much questioning as I want in my classroom.
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    Jan 7 2013: I agree with Linda Taylor and Collen for the most part @Colton. With the right to question and engage on an equal footing with other humans comes the responsibility to understand "BASIC" human functionality and rights.

    We are not born with this knowledge and have to learn it the hard way. Academia is a microcosm of the real world, with most of the pitfalls padded and or removed ( as best we can).

    It can be better, I'm sure, but it is the best path we can generate that will lead a child to 'basic' mastery and control over their own life.

    The right to question anything is not more limited because one is not an adult. It's just as hard to be heard in the adult world sometimes. Persistence and hard work are the keys to anyone's future. Persistence does not have to be protracted and enduring but it does have to be, well, persistent. Hard work doesn't have to be hard all the time but it does have to be more than average to accomplish, more than average work.

    Independent thinking is something no other human has control over. What you think only becomes apparent by way of your actions. If you do not act on your thoughts, no one can tell what you are thinking. As such, independent thinking cannot be controlled or irradiated.

    You may think as independently as you like. I understand that sometimes we need to ask questions to develop an independent thought but that too can be accomplished in a sublimed manner to avoid unwanted attention, especially with the internet so available these days.

    I have engaged in many conversations with young people and could not tell their age nor their level of experience in most areas of life, but if the conversation is ongoing, they do give themselves away eventually. It's hard to hide your age and experience from someone who has more than average skills to gauge someones maturity level. Kinda like on the internet, no matter how good your skills at hacking, eventually you will get caught.

    Good luck.
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    Jan 7 2013: All depends on the level of arrogance of the student and the teacher.
    "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial."
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      Jan 7 2013: Arrogance is something that can readily be dealt with in a social group setting.
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        Jan 7 2013: Not always, especially in a setting with unequal authority.

        My point is that sometimes questioning a teacher also means questioning authority. Even if it's not meant to, it can be perceived as such. It takes some wisdom from both sides to handle the situation appropriately. Sometimes, it's best for the student not to question, sometimes it's best for the teacher to suppress such questions. A lot depends on personalities and tone of the questions. Remember, there is no freedom of speech in classes, even by official rules.

        There seems to be no clear answer to this question. Rights are something that we claim, not something that is "granted". And rights are to be used with responsibility.
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          Jan 7 2013: It's funny how few people notice that the authority figure called,' the teacher' suddenly becomes your friendly next door neighbor after 5:00pm, Just like the firefighter, police officer and the mayor.

          Teachers are not part of a conspiracy to rule the world. Arrogance is usually a two edged sword.
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      Jan 7 2013: In response to your second comment Arkady...

      Yes, it could be seen as questioning authority. But, should the "authority" you speak of here be questioned? To approach this question, we have to define what is the origin of this "authority." My perception is that logic and reason is where this "authority" originates (especially in education). So then, what are we to define as "authority?" Teachers, administrators, etc... are given "authority," defined as the ability to reason and teach reason logically. If the "authority" is faulty and one is aware of it (and if we define this fault as consisting of a logical fallacy, as from our first definition), the one has a "right" to question said "authority." It is on these grounds that questioning should always be allowed, to uphold the ideals of education: logic and reason.

      What are your thoughts on this?
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        Jan 7 2013: Interesting. To me, you are welcome to question authority all you want. I will correct you on it and probably laugh. OK I will laugh. I have the authority in my class and that's not compromisable.

        I am an expert in my field and can articulate how and why I am instructing in the manner I have chosen. Like I said, students do not know what I know.
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          Jan 8 2013: To Linda- I truly mean no disrespect to you. I am questioning to understand and see if what I currently perceive is sound and valid.

          To Arkady- I understand the wording of my comments may sometimes be confusing. On your comment, if we start solely focus on what "is", then we could possibly lose sight of progress (if that is our goal). My perception is that if we can focus on what "is," while seeking for how it "should" be, then we can achieve progress. Does that address your comment appropriately?

          To Linda, Arkady, and John- I see that I may have an assumption that may need to be cleared up. If we need to redefine my terms for my possible err, then let us. What should we need to define as "authority" (in the field of education) and how does one acquire it?
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          Jan 9 2013: What do you really know? Some knowledge is temporary with a very limited half-life. What knowledge can we be sure of? Will it still be useful for future generations?
        • Jan 10 2013: @Michael.. you asked: "What knowledge can we be sure of?"

          We can be sure that non-knowledge absolutely gets us nowhere. Our technologically advanced society did not come from non-knowledge.
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        Jan 7 2013: As I think of it, authority that is not challenged, avoids to be challenged, or does not stand the challenge isn't an authority at all. This seems to be true in science, politics, classroom, or elsewhere. "Survival of the fittest" principle in action.

        We "should" be concerned less about what "should" and more about what "is".

        Think about this sentence for a while. If it gives you a headache, it's because you focus on "should". I hope you can see a connection between what I said and your question. Like your question, it's a little too multi-layered to explain.
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          Jan 7 2013: I assure you Mr. Grudzinsky, Ms. Taylor is everything she claims to be.

          Many people are not comfortable with authority. Authority is a necessary construct, whenever more than two people form a group. It is the spokes that hold the wheel together. It is necessary to maintain order and keep chaos at bay.

          I'm very comfortable with it myself. It has been my experience that most people with authority are family oriented and take their authority serious. They also realize that no one person is the final authority on anything, especially here in the United States.
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        Jan 8 2013: @John Moonstroller

        Re: "I assure you Mr. Grudzinsky, Ms. Taylor is everything she claims to be."
        I agree. This is very evident from her reaction when her authority is challenged.

        Re: "They also realize that no one person is the final authority on anything, especially here in the United States." -- in other words, they feel more comfortable with challenging authority as well.

        I found that as I became more comfortable with authority over me, I also became more comfortable assuming leadership roles and vice versa. I also became more comfortable standing up to authority and voicing my opinion in a respectful and meaningful way to get heard.
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          Jan 8 2013: As it should be Mr. Grudzinsky. Authority is something we have to keep oversight on exactly because some people do abuse it. But, on the whole it is necessary to avoid confusion and decrease violence.

          Coming from the hippy generation, I've had my time at undermining and seeking change in the way authority is maintained in the US. I like to think we were successful to some degree.

          We must remember that it is the Constitution of the United States that gives us the right to (legally, as opposed to violently) demand that authority be administered in a manner of our choosing. We are not subjugated to a government. We are overruled by a system of laws that we choose to impose on ourselves for the good of all. Sometimes, some people in the government get confused as to just where the framework of their authority comes from. It's our job as good citizens to remind them and point to the Constitution.

          To me, the US is the greatest country on the earth, even with it's faults.

          I think you and I are on the same page.

          Just a side note: we made it through 2012 and we are still here :) The future is back on line.
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        Jan 9 2013: @ Michael
        I teach future professionals in a fast paced and changing profession. I know what you need to know to be an independent practitioner in my profession. Even those in practice do not know what is required of students so there is a learning curve as practitioners transition to teaching. But we are teaching current knowledge, within 5 years, and I know what students need to know to become a professional. My knowledge is based in current research and practice as it transitions with professional practice. I have live through and integrated best practices over decades and know the history of the evolution of current practice as well as determinants of that practice. I also know that what I teach today may be outdated tomorrow so I maintain currency in science and in practice to make sure I am educating based on current knowledge.

        That's what I know.
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    Jan 6 2013: @Colton. Your question was directed at students which to me places the issue within some type of academic setting. It can be taken differently so I wanted to make that clear.

    I am a teacher, and I educate future professionals. In my business, students do not know anything near what I know. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to just download all our knowledge directly in to them. Most of what has to happen is a change in the student for learning to occur.

    Students question all the time and I like to see that. I worry about students that just receive information and store it. They need to learn to use that information.

    Now I have all the answers they need (at least in my classes) but if I give them the answers, I am letting them down. I need them to learn and understand it is not about the answers, it's about the questions. I give them the resources and the tools to find the answers but I rarely give answers out. They need to learn the correct questions.

    I say over and over, year after year, "Good question. Where are you going to find that out?" Or, "What do you think?" I am actually pleased when my evals come back and student say it's not worth asking me any questions because I never have an answer.

    I typically structure information in a constructivist paradigm. So they need to learn the basics before the complex. Some students want complex answers right away. To that I respond, "I will get you there I promise. But you won't understand the why if you do not understand this first." They need to learn the correct question which includes "Do I have enough information yet?"

    I do not worry about the other students even when they roll their eyes. I appreciate an aggressive student. Hungry and eager to learn. They are an example to the other students who may be passively receiving information that they too, need to be asking the right questions.
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    Jan 5 2013: Hi Colton,
    I believe we are all students and teachers in this earth school, and questioning with curiosity is one of the best ways to learn, in my humble perception and experience. So, I think/feel that questioning is GREAT for all of us and "should" be encouraged:>)
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    Jan 5 2013: to the supreme court
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    Jan 5 2013: I think I created more questions then I've answered. I was only trying to address Colton as I perceived his situation as an inquisitive student who wasn't receiving the responses he wanted. I hope I have addressed his situation.
    For educators from other countries: The American Education System has lost its edge as a superior provider of pedagogical services. I think we rate about 30th in the world.
    For everyone else: What I am about to say is anecdotal: 50 years ago, in response to charges of discrimination in public schools, The Federal Department of Education was created to establish equal standards for all schools. The DoE was also funded to give money to help school systems meet the challenges to provide equal education. Over time the measure of who got more funds came to rest on standard test scores. Today, schools focus on those test scores. Really focused, some to the point of obsession.
    There are private schools, parochial schools, etc. and even a few public schools that are not so focused and these schools usually provide a better education.
    Teachers: A large professional group composed of a few outstanding teachers, a few not so good and most are doing their best to do a good job under strenuous circumstances. Here is where students interface with the school systems.
    Teachers usually maybe 45 minutes of face time with a class before a new group comes in. This teacher maybe responsible for as many as 120 or more students. He is given a very detailed lesson plan that is addressed to achieve successful results on the standard test thus assuring federal funding for the school. In comes Colton to class. A sharp young man who will probably do well on the test and keep this teacher employed. This teacher is going to give attention to this young man. Also in the class is a shy girl over in the corner. She could pass, graduate and get married. In the other corner is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Don't bother with him, he'll probably drop out.
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      Jan 4 2013: Teachers should be posing questions that do not have single right answers and that are about thought rather than recall of content that has been presented. Many teachers start each class by posing such a question and others ask students questions during the class for students to think about privately and then maybe to offer a written or oral reflection/conjecture in pairwise or small group discussion and then brought to the full class.

      Students' responses need to be considered for the kernels of insight in them, with those insights acknowledged and followed up.

      The classroom environment needs to have a culture of "no put-downs" -no making fun of those who offer incorrect or unusual ideas.

      Students need opportunities to pursue projects/research of their own selection, scaffolded by the teacher.
      The teacher's content must be connected to matters that students can relate to or find interesting in their own lives or dreams.
      The pedagogy isn't actually very mysterious and I would say is accepted as "best practice" in teaching.

      The experience Mike describes can be true of districts that script their teachers tightly, but not all do.
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      Jan 4 2013: And I believe the method Fritzie could be referring to is called the Socratic method.
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        Jan 4 2013: The Socratic method does involve questioning, but not all questioning in a classroom context is Socratic.

        An element that is extremely important with kids is the culture of not ridiculing those who make mistakes or put forward ideas with flaws. I do not believe that is part of the Socratic method.

        What I put forward are just some basics that are commonly taught in teacher certification programs and that appear in the literature on teaching methods.

        Beyond this, there are a large number of sources specifically on fostering creativity. In a 2010 book by Shelley Carson she wrote that there are forty three books and 407,000 websites devoted to parenting to promote creativity. The 2010 Cambridge Handbook of Creativity offers a plethora of ideas as well for life, home, and classroom founded in research.
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          Jan 5 2013: Ah I see that it may not be part of it. And I agree that the element not ridiculing students, but aiding students who put forth flawed ideas. That is key. And I will have to look into those resources.
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        Jan 5 2013: I offered the resources mainly because it is useful to do some research, as you are doing, if a person is truly serious about a subject. In education people often act on the basis of impressions from their own specific classroom experience long ago and from what they are convinced of from media, social media, or reading of material that is unreliable.

        As your training likely emphasizes, critical thinking about a problem depends on putting the effort into understanding the problem well and understanding also what is actually known about possible solutions. Instead people often simply assume no one really cares other than the enlightened few and that no one has bothered to explore solutions seriously.

        If it is a serious problem, these assumptions are likely incorrect and those who make them lose the chance to be at the cutting edge of progress or productive partners in solution.
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      Jan 4 2013: No problem Carolyn.

      I can only speak for the curriculum here in the UK however, I know many of you are speaking more specifically about the situation in the US.

      In our SATs tests that children have to take at two points during their Primary education only reading, writing, maths and now grammar are tested and we have to give a child a level dependent on very narrow criteria. Teachers almost without exception dislike these tests; they force professionals to narrow the scope of what we cover to fit thay criteria that does not take into account the great raft of different skills and attributes the children have. Also, prior to this government coming into power a new more child centred curriculum was ready to come into being based around 6 areas of learning and with much more importance placed on child initiated activities. This was immediately scrapped by the new government with nothing prepared to take it's place.

      Just a couple examples for you.
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          Jan 4 2013: Apologies, but there is a little too much in your reply to respond to here.

          But briefly, the new curriculum was based on the findings on The Cambridge Primary Review, you should be able to find more information if you search for that.

          I would say that what I find limiting is the assessment frameworks, the criteria being very narrow and also the fact that the rely too heavily on children being able to write well within a short space of time which doesn't give many children a good opportunity to show what they can do. Also the fact that it is only these subjects that are assessed doesn't show the progress the children make across the curriculum or in their personal/social development.

          We don't only focus on English culture; we spend a great deal of time learning about other cultures. Through topic work where we might focus on the history, geography, art, dance and social aspects of other cultures. In religious education we take time to study all the major faiths of the world and how they have helped to influence the lives of others. In English we look at stories from unfamiliar cultures and seek to draw paralels with our own. Many schools across the UK also link with schools from other parts of the world to help foster better understanding. There are many other ways we try to prepare our children for the world they will need to thrive in. I'm sorry that you feel so let down by those who taught you.
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          Jan 4 2013: I notice I said briefly then wrote loads. Teachers hey!
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    Jan 3 2013: As a recovering victim of US public education, I naturally say students have every right to question.

    (no thanks to Public Education) I have learned “How” to question and that is what proper education should teach and not just how to memorize. Google has eliminated the need for employers to hire those you know known facts, it is the creative and problem solvers that is needed in this changing world.
    The first part of know how to question is full understanding the question and to that end I have to ask you what is you end goal of you question? My reply will vary greatly depending on the contest of the question.

    For example my profession is creating floor plans and maps, now when someone ask for a floor plan of building “X” I need to know their end goal. The floor plans I create for students and teacher are very different than those for carpenters or plumbers. Also sometimes they are needed to figure out the sq. footage of a room and it is better to just tell them the sq. footage. What format is needed? Well you get my point, knowing how, what and when to question is important.
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    Jan 3 2013: I think they should be allowed to question until whatever is the truth emerges: perhaps the idea they are questioning is wrong, and they are right, and should be acknowledged; or perhaps the original idea is right, and the student's objections are wrong, and the original idea should be acknowledged. But either way, take it all the way until the truth is reached, and everyone is content with the conclusion reached.