Students and their “Beautiful Questions”

Last week in my First Year Seminar classes, we focused on questions. Together with my student, we discussed the difference between “low-level” and “high-level” questions; the difference between who, what, when, and where questions and the how and why questions; and discussed the difference between questions with more or less one right answer and those questions with countless correct answers.

Researchers say the typical toddler asks 100 questions a day. Neil Postman says, “Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.” Adults ask far, far few questions than they did as children. How come? This also gave us much to discuss. We also discussed how too often school just wants answers and people with questions get into trouble. 

We talked about the various questions asked by different academic disciplines and looked at this great video to get us started. 

We also discussed what has been termed a Beautiful Question

An ambitious, yet actionable, question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something–and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.

Students were each given an index card. Their questions are below. These questions show they are curious, creative and are making connections and have a desire to embrace communications–all aspects of the formal structure of critical thinking. And I love how some even kind of deconstructed the question and other questions can be read as a metaphor for larger questions and thoughts. 

  • In a world that is becoming more and more multi-ethical, how do we choose which culture to embrace? How can we embrace both?
  • As high school students, why were we not taught life lessons? Such as how to pay bills, taxes, car notes, what it means to get a credit card.
  • Why would some people believe abortion is okay considering the studies stating that the child is alive?
  • Why would you consider a religious belief of another if it could cause harm to a society as a whole?
  • How much is left behind from those who forever leave us?
  • Why do people feel the need to control and censor the thoughts they disagree with?
  • Why is it fair to go about life assuming everyone has the same view?
  • Why are some questions better than others? Especially if no question is a bad question?
  • How does the human body work together and function as one?
  • Why is it so hard for doctors to cure cancer? Why is cancer so hard to get rid of?
  • Why do we have to take this class as freshmen?
  • What is the difference between living and existing?
  • Why does society require people to have an opinion over life and certain situations?
  • If the Muslim boy who was accused of creating a bomb was white, would the same thing happen? Is society just making this about race?
  • Why has the status of personhood been given to corporate entities before our fellow sentient beings?
  • Why do we judge based on our characteristics?
  • Is it wrong to allow children to grow up in a society where everything from music to media, and values are corrupt?
  • Why are lifted trucks the stupidest things in the world? Like, you never go off-roading in it or haul stuff. You are just wasting gas. Why?
  • What would the world be like without religion?
  • What would the world be like if humans never colonized or if there were no countries or state lines?
  • Why are questions difficult to manufacture?
  • Is assisted suicide considered murder?
  • Why do humans feel the need to appear “normal” when there is no clear definition of normal and every person is not the same?
  • Why is the American standard of beauty so uniform when everyone has different taste and types in their sexual preferences? Why haven’t we gotten rid of this yet?
  • What are the boundaries for this class or Learning Frameworks as a whole?
  • What should I be when I grow up?
  • Why is Ariana Grande so perfect at singing? Will I meet her tonight? What should I eat before her concert? Should I take a nap before the concert?
  • Why do we need to continue to learn basic knowledge in college for stuff we have been learning for years if it does not pertain to who we wish to become?
  • Why must race define who someone is or can be?
  • If it was not for the human condition how more advanced would we be? Does consciousness expand beyond what science can tell us? Is anyone really different?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Where did we begin?
  • Are there people living in different galaxies?
  • What is real?
  • Why do we go to school without questioning it?
  • What causes headaches? Does everyone who gets headaches also become sensitive to light?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • How has America changed throughout the years? Why is it better? Why is it worse?
  • How should I feel about someone who is close to me who has harmed me in many ways?
  • Why is the world so different? If we stick to a certain thing, can we ever change or be different?
  • Should modern day feminism be taken serious, whereas their version of “equality” is women being superior?
  • Why are humans aggressive towards each other?
  • If there is a God, would it really care if humans succeeded or failed as a species?
  • How come questions seemed to be answered in one way (majority of the time) by people who dominate the “stage” with an unopened mind? What makes a person have an open mind?
  • What is an individual’s purpose in life? What can I/we fix? How can we progress in life?
  • What is the purpose of life?
  • Do people really change?
  • Is ignorance bliss?
  • What is the way to true happiness?
  • What is the point of building relationships with people that will just leave?
  • Is making money more important than being passionate?
  • Do the rights of being a citizen have higher importance than the rights of being a human?
  • What is the point of the scavenger hunts? Wouldn’t it be better as an optional assignment?
  • Why do we have dreams? What do different dreams mean?
  • Why aren’t people more open to change?
  • Why are we afraid to be different from the current standard of society?
  • Why do our actions show who we are rather than who we are as a person?
  • Why do people continue to seek more and more knowledge when it seems like the more we know, the scarier life gets? Ignorance is bliss right?
  • Why do we, as a society, outcast people with different views or traits? Why don’t we embrace differences and stop teaching that there is a right way and a wrong way to be? Can we break away from the idea of being “normal”?
  • Is money the key to success?
  • What is love?
  • How much have standardized tests changed since they were created?
  • Should the testing of early mathematics be restructured?
  • If this cheese really isn’t yours, is it really nacho cheese?
  • Why does society today look for answers instead of finding them themselves?
  • How come we cannot answer questions that have not been answered for centuries?
  • Does the state of mind of someone affect their critical thinking?
  • What inspires us to have emotion?
  • Why do we see color in a person before anything else?
  • Is America still a divided nation?
  • How can I live a more fulfilling life?
  • How can I be more present in everyday life?
  • How am I presenting myself to other people?
  • What is so powerful in society that hinders an individual’s ability to think for themselves?
  • Why is education in America so expensive?
  • Is there a way to overcome writer’s block to effectively write a paper?
  • Can jet fuel melt steel beams?
  • How can we prevent child obesity?
  • Is obesity systematic?
  • Is poverty systematic, structural?
  • Does my vote really matter?
  • Should religion be used to create politics and government? Or should there be a separation between church and state?
  • Why be a pessimist when you can be an optimist?
  • Is there alien life?
  • Whose duty is it to further humanity? Technology?
  • Do your actions towards people you don’t like impact them or you more?
  • Why is the world filled with so much judgment, we are all human beings that are trying to navigate this crazy world, why judge the way other people chose to live their own lives?
  • What is the difference between a beautiful question and an ugly one?
  • What really makes people “smarter” than others?
  • Why do things have to be beautiful? How do we determine what is beautiful?
  • How is it that you could be a generous person that only has selfish people in your life?
  • Why is it almost necessary for people in our society today to be required to obtain some sort of degree to prove our intelligence in order to be taken seriously amongst our peers?
  • What does it mean to “have gender”?
  • What is the purpose of knowledge? Why must we have it?
  • Why am I in this class? Why did I not move away?
  • Why can I not just start my career? How are these classes going to help me?
  • Why does society not let their imaginations dictate their acts and just their beliefs?
  • What elements form the colors of the rainbow in the sky, or what forms/males a rainbow?
  • Has the cure for cancer been found and become hidden from the world?
  • Why are people the way that they are?
  • What makes them think the way they do?
  • What inspires people the most?
  • Why do people tend to stick by other people who treat them badly than by the people who treat them well and care for them?
  • Why does someone lie when the truth wouldn’t hurt?
  • Why do we follow societal expectations and attempt to please others when our death is the very reason we as individuals have complete control of our life and actions?
  • Why do we put the least effort into the things that are most beneficial to us?
  • Why is there so much power and greed in this world?
  • What do I have offer or what is my purpose in this life I am living?
  • Can an all-powerful god create a rock so big that not even he can move it?
  • What would it take for people to love knowledge? Instead of thinking it to be lame to know things?
  • What is at the root of hatred and how might people go about demolishing their feelings and actions?
  • Why are we programmed to be “against” asking questions about other cultures than our own?
  • Why does the primary and secondary school system of America demand uniform trains of thought and hamper creativity both mentally and physically?
  • Why do most religions not question beyond the limitations of how and why their god/gods came about and just accept it?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Why in almost all parts of nature, is there a mathematical sequence involved?

Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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4 replies

  1. In reading through so many of your blog posts, it seems that you must be teaching philosophy instead of history. 🙂 Allowing them to write out their questions on index cards, instead of voiceing them, probably ensure you had more ‘true’ questions. These are really super.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there! I actually really need to take a philosophy course or something. I’m always emphasizing the ideas and theories and questions and perspectives compared to anything else! It is so much more fun than “facts.”

      I’m glad you like their questions! Anonymous index card work wonders sometimes! 🙂



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