Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The “Why” Question

In pushing for better standardized test results, are we assuring students have mastered their studies or squashing their individuality?


Are we undoing a competitive advantage in our educational system by focusing on test scores, while the Chinese and Japanese try to reform their schools to encourage more intuitive learning?

Are we dismissing the humanities for technology career tracks even as the economy pays a higher premium for creativity and communication?

Or, as idea entrepreneur Joey Reiman phrases it in an upcoming book, are we de-geniuising America?

Reiman, who has written “Thinking for a Living” and “The Story of Purpose,”  says we are exiling the “why” from our educational curriculum. In our rush to make sure students know the “who,” “what” and “when” of subjects, we overlook the question that unleashes the brain from conventional thinking.

Why something happens is a question that leads to discovery, not rote learning, he says. Students who ask “why” questions can be annoying and even disruptive. But they also can turn out to be the best thinkers, the most curious learners, the people most capable of finding a new path.

Joey ReimanThere may not be an absolutely direct correlation between asking “why” and problem-solving, but there is a lot of evidence to show people who ask why have a better chance of finding “what” is wrong and “how” to fix or “who” can fix it.

Reiman says the answers to “why” questions often lead to dedicated journeys, noble causes and unthinkable pursuits because it provides a sense of purpose. In marketing, we know people buy products and services because of perceived benefits, not just known features.

Mark Twain said the two best days of life are when we are born and when we find out why. It is hard to imagine measuring the value of Twain’s sly humor on a multiple choice question.

Thanks to Steve Kayser for his blog for Compass Higher Education Consulting for inspiring this blog


One comment on “The “Why” Question

  1. Professor VJ Duke
    October 8, 2013

    Definitely and absolutely so! But what to do? This symbol $ has much might! A lot is being dismissed dadblameit! The professor enjoyed the post….

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