This I Believe

Benjamin - Las Vegas, Nevada
Entered on January 8, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: question
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My Game Show Night

The exciting weekends of my childhood, which always felt like a treat at the end of a seemingly unending school week, were often spent with my grandma Elaine. Pizza was the usual choice for dinner, followed by vanilla soft-serve and fresh salted popcorn, during the consumption of which, my Grandma and I sat anxiously awaiting our favorite game show, Jeopardy! From these nights, I not only discovered the joy of trivia – that certain ecstasy in knowing some curious detail – but I also discovered the importance of questions. I believe in questioning: questioning not simply in that pondering philosophical sense, but literally to receive an answer. It may take a mustering of courage and humility to finally ask a question, but my experience has shown that the benefit of an answer surely outweighs the cost of asking.

Throughout my education, I have been encouraged to ask questions about the material being taught. It has always been apparent to me that this acted as a means for teachers to make sure they were coherently explaining a topic. Yet, only recently have I realized the extent to which a question can exceed the presented material and bring the discussion to a new level. Asking a question might introduce a topic that coincides with the current lesson, digressing from the original intent of a lesson plan, but nonetheless commencing an equally academic conversation. This new conversation may introduce a new idea about the original subject or may entirely deviate from the current subject. In either case, the seed is planted for further questioning, resulting in further knowledge and further interest in the subject at hand.

After eight years of grade school and three years of high school, I have overcome all fears associated with raising one’s hand to make an inquiry. As a child, I had this magnificent vision of my teachers being infallible masters of their trade. This vision exists no more. I now listen meticulously to each lecture of the day, finding what appear to be inconsistencies and then questioning their validity. I purposely twist and turn subject matter to extreme ends, forming possible questions in my mind, and finally insisting that the instructor answer the most pertinent of these questions. At the end of each class, I truly feel I have accomplished what I came to accomplish – the filling of even the tiniest empty spaces in my studies.

I suppose Jeopardy! is a fitting metaphor for my belief. Such a game show, in which the contestants are given the answers and required to provide questions that correspond to those answers, mirrors the educational experience, in which the students are given material and compelled to ask questions about that material. I believe in Jeopardy as I believe in questioning, for not to question is not to understand; not to understand is not to learn; and, of course, not to learn is simply foolish.