A philosophy club is starting soon at my son’s school.
For 5 weeks, for one hour after lessons they will…
“have the opportunity to think outside the box and explore new ideas that they may not have the chance to discuss in class; for example “if you had a different name would you be a different person?“. They will have the chance to see that their ideas have value, but they don’t always have to be right”
Brilliant! Putting aside for one moment that thinking outside the box and exploring new ideas is what they should really be doing IN class, if it turns out that they can’t do this (Thanks Ofsted!) then I’m really pleased this opportunity has started.
They wouldn’t be learning about Aristotle and Socrates, but using questions to learn how to think. (Hang on, sod you Ofsted!)
We put the idea to the 10-year old lying on the floor, he wasn’t excited, he had the xbox.
So we tried a different tack, using the approach in the letter…
Would you be the same person if you were called Susan?
This surprised him. And didn’t go anywhere. We started talking about..
If you were born in a different country, would you still be the same person you are now? If you were born a girl, would you be the same? Would you like girls things?
At this, he bit…
Good, something he cares about, I pursued it.
But pink used to be a boys colour, until about 50 years ago. So it hasn’t always been a girls colour. So if YOU were born years ago, would you like pink?
No, was the firm answer. So I asked him why, and he replied…
“Pink is a girls colour”
I asked a question so I get an answer.
We are taught that asking why is important, essential if you want to explore, analyse and just get better at something. It is supposed to get people to dig deeper, to locate and test assumptions. It is the spade with which we dig through the thinking.
The 5-why’s rely on it. Five times!
But asking why doesn’t necessarily get people to think why, “why” is seen only as an invitation to justify, not to explore or analyse. It is a challenge, it is suggesting subtly “You are wrong“as it isn’t taking someone at face value. Why is a distrustful question, it’s not a safe question like “who?” or “what?” or “when?“. People are safe with those ones, they are used to giving simple one word answers to those one word questions.
“How?“, not so much, it is a bit more dangerous but it still is a nicely mechanical question, it lies safely at the level of method. But “why?” is a much more searching question. People at my work tend not to feel comfortable with it. I get answers when I ask “why“, and I don’t want answers, I want thinking and more questions.
This is really odd because this shows that an answer to any “why” question is just as thought through as “pink is a girls colour“. No need as its obvious, innit?
The level of thinking of most adults in most organisations is at this primary school level.
The Systems Thinking Lesson.
So, what comes after a why?
A question mark comes after a why.
But what comes at the end of the answer?
Nothing comes after an answer.
That is why pink is a girls colour. It’s obvious, innit?