Please, No Questions! The Exploration Barrier.


One of the most exciting and most challenging interactions with young minds is responding to their curiosity and almost endless questions. In today’s social environment, schools are locked into strict curriculum goals and student performance. This setting along with busy, often tired, often stressed parents present discouraging settings for the inquisitive minds of children.  It is their innate thirst for explanations to a entire range of both real and imaginary mysteries that is the motive exploratory force that is born within us.

I can still recall my own frustrations and sometimes embarrassment when my questions, sometimes off the wall, earned me either a “we will get to that later” from a teacher or a round of laughter and teasing from my classmates.  At home, my busy parents either did not have the time, the inclination or the understanding of the subject area to respond other than to say, “not now and you need to be doing your homework.”  The discouraged, seemingly bored expression on the youngster’s face in the image above pretty well reflects my own feelings after one of those failed cognitive explorations.  My situation was not unique and is repeated today, regularly, among children around the globe. The fact that in spite of these unrewarding encounters many children go on to become some of our greatest scientific and creative minds.  I just wonder how many more we would have if we could do a better job of responding to those youthful inquiries?

I am not really lambasting either the school systems or parents, what I am really attacking is the press of these times that keep all of us too busy, and too often self-absorbed to see what both we and the youngsters around us are missing.  Additionally, as a parent, I did not do all that well either. Actually it was not until I started, much later in life, working with children with a variety of cognitive and behavioral problems that I begin to see what we were missing. This exposure took me into classrooms in a wide range of grades and schools and into the children’s homes. This is when the light came on, and I begin to see all of those beautiful minds pinging away at teachers, at me, at parents, and between themselves in their cognitive explorations. As I have said above, a most challenging and most exciting environment.

In talking with parents, they would often bemoan the fact that they really did not know the answers to their offspring’s questions.  In this regard, we discussed the idea of the parent explaining this to their youngster and suggesting that they jointly search for the answers.  In our modern computer driven, Internet linked info-world this kind of joint activity is easily initiated. This is true even when the parent is not terribly computer literate.  In most of these cases, their youngsters are fully literate and facile in manipulating both computers and the Internet. So, here we have a dual learning experience which can and usually does create an incredible new bond between parent and child.

Well, what about our schools? Another thing I learned from my days in all grades of our elementary school system was just how hard most teachers work, and how many organizational potholes there are that mar their real progress to impart knowledge.  At the same time, I also witnessed in one very outstanding elementary school a high degree of parent volunteerism.  Some of those sessions were “lets learn together sessions” where parent and student, not necessarily their own child, would work together to find answers.  It was stunning and so very successful.  For the teacher it was a welcome respite that allowed him or her to stay caught up with the system’s demands and stimulate young minds.  How nice if this wonderful model of joint efforts by parents and teachers could become worldwide.

Well, all of this is about humankind’s obligation to explore, and we should be learning that this obligation extends to the intellectual stimulation and nurturing of our progeny.  In doing this we are fulfilling one critical step in the exploratory ethic which I have discussed here previously. For me, and for many parents I have talked with who have begun either volunteer work in their children’s schools or doing the “lets learn together” routine at home, or in many cases, both, the personal sense of fulfillment is just plain joyous.  In doing this we are fostering and moving forward in our obligation to explore.

Let’s get busy, and tear down those barriers and encourage those amazing, boundless and challenging questions.  It is the exploratory ethic knocking at the door.

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