Asking the Right Questions

On Friday, a colleague made a very good point in discussion with Abbotsford Christian Secondary School during their workshop “Our Journey Towards Relevant and Engaging Learning” in Lynden, WA. We were talking about critical thinking and the importance of asking the right questions. “I don’t think we should just settle for the right questions”, she remarked. “Don’t you think we should be pushing students to find answers as well?”

It made me think. It was a good challenge, as over the past few years, I have become accustomed to people using phrases like, “I’d rather know the right questions”, in order not to sound presumptuous or preachy. It’s a hallmark of current philosophy. Many people go to university nowadays and I feel that many undergraduates are taught to question the world and rethink how everything works. We are given plenty of practice with tools of deconstruction and given very little guidance about how to rebuild. We graduate having thought lots and done little. If we sustain this as a way of life, we will live most of our lives in our heads insulating ourselves from our disappointment with a world whose brokenness we know in intricate detail.

Is it okay to look for the right questions? Absolutely. We often find great opportunity for innovation when we question the basic assumptions of why we do a thing. But seeking questions can become a closed circuit, defeating the purpose of asking questions in the first place.

Sometimes we forget that questions are meant to have answers. It seems like heresy to say so because the question has been given attention disproportionately, but it’s not. It’s actually the way things are meant to work.

This week in church I was challenged again by a group of travelling Ma’asai from Tanzania that seeking the right questions is not going to be enough, not when faced with real dilemmas of life and death. Their people need real answers. Certainly, having excellent questions may be of some value, but the tribe is faced with extinction from incursions on multiple fronts made by legal unfairness, HIV/AIDS, water shortage, and more. They need real, workable solutions.

It’s time for a reality check. If you’ve been satisfied with getting to the right questions, keep travelling down those paths and find some answers.

But first, you may need to embrace the fact that your answers may not be perfect.


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