The art of posing (the right) questions

Posted by Pierre-Antoine Ullmo in Education Today

September 5th, 2019

Reading Martha C. Nussbaum’s Not for Profit gives us a new understanding of what education means. Nussbaum shows how the use of Socratic values produces a certain type of citizen: active, critical, curious, capable of resisting authority and peer pressure.

“Dewey’s socratism was not a sit-at-your-desk-and-argue technique; it was a form of life carried on with other children in the pursuit of an understanding of real-world issues and immediate practical projects, under the guidance of teachers, but without imposition of authority from without.” (Page 66)

“Tagore’s students were encouraged to deliberate about decisions that governed their daily life and to take the initiative in organizing meetings.” (Page 71) “Tagore’s school developed strategies to make students global citizens, able to think responsibly about the future of humanity as a whole.” (Page 84)

“The problems we need to solve – economic, environmental, religious and political – are global in their scope. They have no hope of being solved unless people once distant come together and cooperate in ways they have not before.” (Page 79)

Nussbaum and others help us understand the importance of posing the right questions. Gaston Bachelard wrote in The Formation of the Scientific Mind: “All knowledge is an answer to a question. Nothing is given. Everything is constructed.”

Having the ability to pose the right questions is fascinating. Listening to Stephen Hawking helps understand how the need to explore and settle on new planets is linked to fundamental questions about the origin of the universe and the future of the human race. Asking the right questions is also what economist and Nobel Prize Esther Duflo recommends to fight poverty, insisting on the need to come up with accessible solutions to concrete questions and problems.

Education is all about the art of posing the right questions. It requires a lot of factual knowledge and the ability to think critically: what Nussbaum calls “global citizenship”.

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