Hannah raised her hand and the professor acknowledged her. She said, “I have a question”. Muffled sounds could be heard across the room and the professor smiled knowingly. It was the sixth time Hannah was asking a question in a two-hour class. Her classmates seemed to be frustrated every time she asked a question. After entertaining the question, the professor turned to the rest of the class and said, “I noticed your displeasure when Hannah asked her question. What is your concern?” “She is too inquisitive” Thelma offered and the others agreed. “She asks stupid questions” said Peter. “She’s not the only one in the class” threw in Josh, “Is she trying to be smart or something?” “I think she’s just seeking attention” said Sharron, “She does it in every class”. The entire class agreed with their friends. Hannah was so embarrassed that she made a silent promise to herself never to ask another question even if it would kill her.
The professor smiled and said, “Ok, let’s find out if you are right. I need you to sincerely respond to my questions by a show of hands. How many of you already knew the answers to Hannah’s questions before I gave them?” Three students indicated out of a class of 25. “Hmm, ok. How many of you learnt from my responses to the questions?” More than half of the class indicated. “How many of you had the same questions but you chose not to ask?” Nine students indicated. “How many of you are aware that Hannah’s grades are the best in this class?” Twenty-four students reluctantly indicated. By now, Hannah wasn’t embarrassed anymore! The Professor continued, “Obviously, majority of you have benefited from Hannah’s questions than you earlier imagined. I think you owe her an apology for being mean and you owe her thanks for helping you to learn.” He looked at their sober faces and said, “Never pretend to know when you don’t. Never be silent when you ought to speak. Never rush ahead of your opportunity to learn.”
A lot of us are like Hannah’s classmates. We don’t realise the value of questions. According to Thomas Berger, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge”. Og Mandino also said, “Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new”. Our society today tends to focus on providing answers but Voltaire insightfully said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers”. An answer displays what you know but a question indicates what you want to know. What you know is why you are where you are but what you want to know is why you will be where you want to be.