Monday, April 02, 2012

Questionable questioning

I found this a perceptive and timely article:
Why has asking become so hard?

For surely we have all seen this. Events open to public response these days are swamped with people who don’t know how to ask questions. College campuses present some of the worst spectacles of faux-questioning prolixity and inconsequence.(*) In principle, students and faculty members should have long since mastered the art or know enough not to display their incompetence. But no, they seem more and more possessed with a demon of self-expression that has recklessly discarded restraint. ...

The best reason to ask a question is to contribute to the quality of the discussion that has already begun. You can do this if you can draw something more and perhaps unexpected out of the speaker you are addressing.

Think of yourself as someone who seeks to enhance the occasion, rather than as an opportunity to show yourself to advantage. “Mr. Darwin, your description of odd wildlife in the Galapagos Islands is fascinating. Do you think evolution works differently on large continents?”

You have not been invited to give a speech. Before you stand up, boil your thoughts down to a single point. Then ask yourself if this point is something you want to assert or something you want to find out. There are exceptions, but if your point falls into the category of assertion, you should probably remain seated.
Read the whole thing.  Much lost civility and productive public discourse could be restored if people were taught to follow these principles...

(*) - the worst, in my opinion, are the so-called Presidential debate forums...

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