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The Joy of Stupid Questions

From the introduction to a wonderful new book called What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hyptothetical Questions by Randall Munroe.

They say there are no stupid questions. That’s obviously wrong; I think my question about hard and soft things1, for example, is pretty stupid. But it turns out that trying to throughly answer a stupid question can take you to some pretty interesting places.

When I was still in the classroom with teenagers,2 we called those side trips triggered by “stupid” questions “teachable moments”.

Unfortunately, too many educators now don’t have time for that kind of explorative, interesting, unexpected learning. They’re too busy “covering material”.

1 Comment

  1. Jenny

    Opened this just after watching Wednesday night’s The Colbert Report with him and hearing him on Science Friday this afternoon. The book is sitting on my bedside table (waiting for me to finish the library books that will be due soon). I’m fascinated by Randall Munroe because of his insatiable curiosity and willingness to struggle through problems simply because of it. I’d like my students to be that way and I work to be sure I don’t break them of their natural curiosity!

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