Mackintosh Academy Student Portraits

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Encouraging Inquiry in Education

By Diane Dunne, Head of School, Littleton Campus

He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer.  Elie Wiesel (Night)

As students all over the country are returning to school, I am once again filled with the belief that our role as educators must be to encourage young people to ask questions rather than just to answer them.  Our test-driven educational system to the contrary—one recent article in the Hechinger Report estimated that sixth graders in New York City Schools endured 18 days of standardized testing–the role of education is to support children in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, not, as George Bernard Shaw warns, to set knowledge in pursuit of them.

How much more educational it is to stimulate the question of Why do people say that Columbus discovered America? than to hear children parrot the line Columbus discovered America in 1492.  Think about the difference between the richness and the power inherent in that question as opposed to the dead-end stop of the answer alone, not to mention the historical inaccuracy.  That is not to say that gaining a command of math facts or the scientific names of the parts of a plant is not important.  It is necessary but not nearly sufficient.  Unless the educational process supports a child’s curiosity and natural sense of inquiry and sparks her courage to ask questions, big and small, it confines all our children to treading water at a time when the world so desperately needs explorers capable of long-distance swimming and deep-sea diving.

True education is the invitation to go beyond—from the self and the world we know to the who and what we can only imagine.  That invitation cannot be accepted without engaging with the power of questions.

Tips for Parents: Here are some links to articles and books about encouraging curiosity and the art of inquiry in your child.

Enhancing Critical-Thinking Skills in Children: Tips for Parents

Six Ways for Parents to Cultivate Strong, Curious, Creative Children

Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity, And Creativity In Children

How can parents encourage their children to be curious?

The importance of encouraging curiosity in children

Explorer’s Guide: The Cat in the Hat’s Top Ten Tips for Engaging Young Children in Science

 

Happy inquiring,

Diane Dunne
Head of School, Littleton Campus