Academia

My pet peeve: Of course there are stupid questions

I love to mentor people. I love mentoring students, interns and employees alike. I like to see growth. And I like to see lightbulb moments.  I find it fun to impart wisdom. I like to find new ways of explaining things. Perhaps there is a bit of narcissism in all that mentoring.  Perhaps I like to hear myself speak. Although, I would counter that last possibility  by saying I actually don’t like talking to many people as I am a bit of a curmudgeon. Yes, actually I am a curmudgeon.   A full-fledged one. Which may seem counter to the overall premise from which I started in that I like to mentor people. How can a mentor be a curmedgeon? Let me tell you, it is completely feasible. I would say curmedgeons make the best mentors. Don’t you think Felix Ungar from the Odd Couple would be awesome to shadow and learn from?

Curmedgeons don’t sugarcoat and thus you are more likely to gain true insight. It is not to say that I am a mean person as a mentor. I just have some snark. Which will explain my next sentence. As someone who does love mentoring, I am going to tell you straight up there is such a thing as a stupid question. Come on, you know it is true. How many times have you sat in a meeting and felt like hitting your head against the wall because some of the questions being posed were ridiculous?  For instance, I can finish saying something to the effect of “well it doesn’t seem feasible because we don’t have enough resources” To which then, someone asks “I don’t want to seem like I’m being negative but do you really think we can do this considering we don’t have enough materials.”  My face scrunches into a “seriously?” look. I know I often sit there, in such situations, wondering if perhaps the person’s blood sugar is too low. I try to excuse the stupid questions up to a point. Then I start pitying myself. 

 

Now, I am going to say something that will make it clear why I didn’t go into academia.  I have done hundreds of trainings where I have tried to employ what are called adult learning principles where you acknowledge the life experiences that individuals bring to the training and topic at hand.  While that is a great perspective to bring what I believe should be added to those principles is that one should be old enough to know when asking a stupid question. I know that many of my past colleagues start off their lectures noting that they want people to ask questions and to know that there are no dumb questions in their perspective.  They do this to encourage people to think and participate.  But should participation be like an all-you-can-eat-buffet or verbal diarrhea?  Meaning, should we really allow anything to be thrown out there in terms of questions? Don’t we have an ethical obligation to ensure some type of insightful questioning?  There need to be limits placed. Otherwise people will get lazy and just throw things out without even trying to reason it out themselves.

 

If we allow this mindset to continue that there are no stupid questions, then common sense will start to go the way of the dodo. Some might argue that we are already at that stage in our backwards evolutionary process.  Is this what we want for civilization?  So, lets just set a few rules. If it sounds stupid, don’t ask it. Just check yourself.
My rant is over. Back to my nurturing self.

 

4 replies »

  1. Hahaha.. god you are just way to honest , but all in a good way!! I hate the dumb questions , but I know I have been guilty as charged!!! But at work—paasleeease!! Remember a few I wanted to choke in meetings !! Glad I didn’t !! Lol

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  2. No question from me, only a Japanese saying: “ćĄ”ă‚‚ç©ă‚‚ă‚Œă°ć±±ăšăȘる。” – “Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru” meaning also when you amass just garbage, then you will get nevertheless a mountain sometime. Throwing all the stupidity and dumbness on this mountain seems to be an attractive idea.

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  3. This makes me glad that I am only mentoring recent high school grads at the moment. They are all young women and of course soak up my words of wisdom, even the snarky ones, like sponges! They have even told me that I am helping them and they look forward to hearing from me, unlike my own twenty something daughters. I was only assigned to mentor one person on the job, and that didn’t go very well as I was new to the company and its procedures and requirements myself. I didn’t stay on that job as long as I’d intended but, as it turned out, my mentee, who I thought was one of management’s darlings, was also intelligent enough to leave there of his own accord recently.

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