Lance Scranton: Questions to clarify

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Lance Scranton

In a world that is ever changing culturally, constantly shifting politically and almost completely unpredictable socially, the way in which we adapt is critical for success.

When we don’t understand something, we become frustrated and can reach the point where we either throw up our hands and think that we will never understand, or we start asking questions.

Questions are important because in a rapidly changing culture we need answers; plus, we’ve been told since we were children that “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”

Agreed. While the question may not be stupid, the answer we’re looking for to help us adapt reveals an implicit intent to correct a misunderstanding that may be affecting our perception, which, in turn, goes a long way toward understanding.

Students constantly are asking questions as they make their way through school. Most students have instant access to the Internet through a smartphone or school computer. Teachers make use of Internet technology constantly and actually rely on it more often than you may think.

But when asking a question and having a piece of technology find the answer there is something missing that is critically important: context. The way we ask a question has more to do with the conditions than the wording.

A common question in American Literature might be whether F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lead character in “The Great Gatsby” is living the American Dream (work hard, be successful, have a better life).

The simple answer is “yes,” however, Gatsby corrupts the American Dream by illegally obtaining the money for his success and suffers the consequences (so, is the answer “no”?).

Helping students ask questions that clarify their understanding is one of the great challenges of teaching in our complex and dynamic world.

At least, that’s what I think.

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