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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?

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  • 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.

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