Teachers explain importance of asking questions, understanding students

Chenyao Liu and Arya Pinnamaneni

National Ask A Stupid Question Day on Sept. 28 was created to encourage students to ask questions they were previously afraid to ask. 

Carl Sagan, scientist and educator, coined the phrase, “there is no such thing as a dumb question.” He argued that every question was a cry to understand the world. AP Seminar and AP English Literature teacher Tony Dunham said he agreed. He said he felt the stupidity of a question was subjective, and encouraged students to ask any and all questions.

English teacher Tony Dunham explains how to correctly analyze texts. He said he encourages his students to frequently ask questions. (Zoe Tu)

“Telling people there’s no such thing as a stupid question, in theory, is good, because it encourages curiosity,” Dunham said. “I’d rather a student ask than not understand.”

Dunham is not the only teacher at CHS who believes that asking questions, however ‘stupid’ they may seem, creates understanding in the classroom. English teacher Grant Benefiel said he agreed.

“I’d encourage any question in a classroom, even as basic as what color is your shirt,” said Benefiel. “I don’t want students to be afraid to ask any questions, so if I do establish that there aren’t any stupid questions, I feel students are more comfortable to ask questions.”

Math teacher Megan Cogswell agreed with Dunham and Benefiel. She also said she believed teachers should strive to create a comfortable learning environment for students.

“I think it’s really important for teachers to build a classroom environment so that students feel comfortable asking questions,” Cogswell said. “I encourage them, if they don’t want to raise their hand and ask a question in front of everybody, to ask the people…next to them.”

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NCBI) finds that asking questions fosters curiosity and critical thinking. A Harvard Business Review article titled “The Surprising Power of Questions” explains asking questions unlocks learning and improves interpersonal skills.

Dunham said, “Even a stupid question can prompt discussion…I think the more we talk and listen to each other (is) what makes the world a better place.”

“Holding on to a question (is detrimental),” Cogswell said. “You need to do something about that, you don’t want to live your life being confused all the time. Find ways to get your questions answered and that will…open some doors to understanding bigger concepts.”