Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Challenge the Question

“Everything we know has its origins in questions. Questions, we might say, are the principal intellectual instruments available to human beings.”
— Neil Postman

Children are taught from a young age to answer questions. Tests are filled with questions that they must answer. Conversations start with questions.

Children are also taught to ask questions. They are encouraged to explore their creativity. To ask why and try to figure out the answer.

While children are taught to ask and taught to answer, there is one main thing they are never taught.

Challenge the question.

Allow me to explain. When I was about 11 years old, I was watching a news show on Nickelodeon. The show was hosted by Linda Ellerbee and she first showed her panel (of children) two news stories. The first news story was about a crime that was videoed by a bystander. The guilty were able to be caught since the bystander took a video. The bystander who took the video was considered a hero. The second story was about a man who went out on his porch with his video camera and recorded a couple in their apartment having sex. This man who videoed was considered a criminal.

Linda asked the children: “So is videotaping good or bad?”

Some of the children explained why it was bad while the rest explained why it was good.

Yet no one attacked the question.

The question was being used to force the child into an all-or-nothing type choice. It wasn’t a fair question. Like many things if used properly it can be beneficial, yet if used incorrectly it can be harmful.

If we want to really enable out children to become better thinkers and less susceptible to certain manipulation tactics, children need to be taught the following about questions and answers.

There are two types of questions and there are two types of answers.

There are questions that are asked because the one asking wants an answer and there are questions that are asked because the one asking is trying to make a point.

There are answers that attempt to answer the question and there are answers that attempt to destroy the question.

Each of these have a time and place, but they can only be used if one is aware of their existence.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.

To speak with Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at

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