Powerful Questions

Some weeks ago I wrote a piece where I asked how we could encourage rather than discourage children to ask powerful questions. Stumbling around the web I came across this impassioned piece, “Grazing the Net” by Jamie McKenzie. In it he says:
“Unfortunately, schools have traditionally neglected the development of student questioning. According to Hyman (1980), for every 38 teacher questions in a typical classroom there is but one student question. Schoolhouse research, sadly, has too often fallen into the “go find out about” category. Topical research (Go find out about Dolly Madison) requires little more than information gathering. We must move beyond this traditional search for answers to simple questions. Instead of asking elementary students to find out all they can about a particular state or nation, for example, we should be asking them to compare and contrast several states or cities for a purpose – sifting, sorting and weighing the information to gain insight, to make a decision or to solve a problem.”
In contrast to what he calls the traditional approach he argues that:
“… We must teach students to start with what Sizer calls “essential questions” – the kinds of probing inquiries which might extend over a month or a lifetime – questions worth asking, which touch upon basic human issues – investigations which might make a difference in the quality of life – studies which might cast light in dark corners, illuminating basic truths. And then we must teach them how to conduct a thorough research study. Questioning persists throughout all stages of such a study.”
And concludes:
“What is a “free range student?” It is simply a student fed on the wild grains and fragments available in the magical world made accessible by the Net. Just as some gourmets prefer free range chickens to their plump cousins raised on processed grains and feed heavily impregnated with hormones and chemicals, the theme of this article is the value of raising children to think, explore and make meaning of their worlds for themselves. No more second hand knowledge. No more sage on the stage. Students will learn to make sense out of nonsense and order out of chaos. They will ask essential questions and solve complex problems. They will join electronically with brothers and sisters around the globe to cast a spotlight on earth-threatening issues which deserve attention and action.”