Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Questions Matter

Questions Matter

Imogen Browne

Year 7, Castle Hill High School

“Anne, where is sleep? People go to sleep every night, and of course I know it's the place where I do the things I dream, but I want to know WHERE it is and how I get there and back without knowing anything about it . . .. Where is it?” *

Davy and Dora, adopted twins in Anne of Green Gables, are completely opposite children. Dora is the picture of obedience; learning quietly, doing exactly what she is told, and never speaking unless spoken to. She is an impeccable child with perfect manners. Davy, on the other hand, is a scrubby boy who is always getting into mischief, pushing boundaries and asking questions. His questions are not considered proper in his times, so he often gets into trouble for asking them. But he gains lots of knowledge and is always very curious which is a very good quality for a child to have.

See how boring and predictable Dora is? She is a good helper and good learner, but not much more. Davy is a bundle of adventure who wins Anne and Marilla's hearts, even with his naughty ways.

Questions don't always get you into trouble. They just require tact. You need to be very careful about when, where and who you ask questions to. Some adults love children to ask questions and will energetically discuss the answer with a child. Others stick by the phrase 'Children should be seen and not heard'.

The average child asks about 300 questions every day. Some adults, however, ask as few as 20. When we are little, questions are accepted, because we are curious and have not had the time to grow our minds. But, as adults, people expect us to just know and stop asking so many questions. So why do the questions dry up as we get older?

Perhaps it's because as we start school and move through the grades, we are usually rewarded more for answers than for questions. Perhaps this is because, in the past, schools were very different places, teachers were less open to questions, and children were unlikely to ask questions. Or perhaps it is because as we get older we gradually get more used to, and less curious about, life in general. Sometimes the world around us just gets less patient for our questions.

Not all adults have fallen into this boring and predictable lifestyle. Philosophers will never stop asking questions that challenge your mind and your opinion. Philosophers ask complex questions that are often without answers. In the novel Sophie's World#, 14-year-old Sophie Amundsen ponders questions in letters from a mysterious philosopher. Sophie puzzles over these questions and begins to explore. Can something come from nothing? Where did the universe come from? Who are you? What is 'right'? 

These are all 'philosophical' questions. Philosophers have been thinking about and striving to find an answer to these questions for thousands of years. But if everyone asked intricate questions the same way philosophers do, would they be considered 'philosophical' questions? Or would they just be normal questions?

Questions allow everyone the freedom to open their minds, to think and to dream about new ideas. People of all ages need the chance to ask questions. Questions should be asked every day, in every household. Questions allow you to gain knowledge and improve your understanding of everything that surrounds you.

Questions matter. Just ask Davy.

*Questions asked by Davy, Aged 12, in Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 18, An Adventure on the Tory Road, by L.M. Montgomery.

# Jostein Gaarder, Sophie's World, 1994, Phoenix House, London