Ask a Stupid Question! (No, really.)

Posted by Charlotte Webster

questions answered smSpeak up, people. It’s Ask a Stupid Question Day.

Friday, September 28 is Ask a Stupid Question Day. And although most of us have been taught that there is no such thing as a stupid question, apparently that was not the case in the early 1980s when this holiday originated. So the glorious decade that brought us Duran Duran, acid-washed jeans, Live Aid and Atari also shepherded in the era of the Stupid Question. Thanks, 1980s.

At the time, education experts felt that too many kids experienced shame when they asked a question in class because other kids giggled at their question. So part of their ingenious solution to encourage students to ask more questions in the classroom was creating a day that actually called questions stupid.

A lot has changed since the 80s, thankfully, and looking at the title of this holiday, I have to wonder what definition of “stupid question” are we applying? But at any rate, I happen to believe that every question is a good question, and in observance of Ask a Stupid Question Day, I submit to you my annual Stupid Questions, asked with complete sincerity:

1)     Why is there only one national space program and no state or city space programs?

2)     Is there really going to be a bacon shortage next year?

3)     Whatever happened to Peter Gabriel?

4)     How many Kool-aid flavors are there?

5)     Who invented shoelaces?

6)     When is the best time to buy an island?

So if you’ve been holding back an inquiry or two for fear of being ridiculed by classmates, co-workers, or cashiers in the checkout line, stand proud. Today is YOUR day.

All those questions you’ve been afraid to ask, those wonders you’ve been wondering, the puzzlers you’ve been puzzling over, just put them out there. Speak up. Whether you’re in a classroom or a chat room, a boardroom or a boardwalk, now is the time to ask whatever it is that’s on your mind.

And if you’re in a class or a meeting or in line at the grocery store and you hear someone else ask a question, the No Laughing rule applies. Unless the person asking is a comedian, in which case you should probably laugh because the question is most likely intended to be funny. But otherwise, be kind and support your fellow inquiring mind.

I think that in spite of their misaligned holiday naming convention, and perhaps a missed opportunity to squelch bullying, those teachers in the 80s were on to something. If we stop asking questions, we stop learning. What would happen if fear of retaliation or public scorn made us unable to ask questions of our leadership, our peers, or even ourselves? Ask Dr. Michelle Washington, whose questioning of the VA and their treatment of veterans with PTSD landed her a poor performance review. Asking “why” can be one of the scariest, yet most empowering experiences there is.

The ability to question, to explore, and simply to think critically for ourselves is at the crux of our national identity. Asking questions – and listening to the answers – can lead to greater understanding of the world around us, and it’s one reason why education is so important.

So go ahead – ask your questions. Listen to those answers. And ask, ask, ask more questions. As long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of your fellow citizens, it’s your right to be inquisitive.

After thinking about it some more, I’ve decided that I want to add to my previous list of questions. Here it is:

7)      What better way to maintain an inquisitive, entrepreneurial spirit and keep challenging myself every day to be better than to go back to school?

And as a cautionary tale about what happens when you stop asking questions and educating yourself, I leave you with this clip from the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”

What do you think? What questions will you ask today? How about using your education benefits to go to class and ask even more questions?


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