There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question (Really!)

Eleanor Roosevelt was an interesting person. I hope that I find the time to study her life and works someday. Perhaps she could be the subject of a new reading marathon? I’ll certainly keep it in mind.

The reason I’m thinking about her is that I just read a lovely book that she wrote called You Learn by Living. Sadly, I don’t know much about her, but in this book she came across as extremely able, honest, intelligent, and dare I say it, wise. My thanks to my father who lent me the book eons ago. I will finally be returning it to him, but I might have to first add it to my list of books to buy. I think if I were a teacher, I would add this to my must-read list for teenagers.

She wrote many things that struck a chord with me. I will try to share more of them later, but for now, my favorite passage:

There is a wonderful word, why?, that children use. All children. When they stop using it, the reason, too often, is that no one bothered to answer them, no one tried to keep alive one of the most important attributes a person can have: interest in the world around him. No one fostered and cultivated the child’s innate sense of the adventure of life.

One of the things I believe most intensely is that every child’s why should be answered with care—and with respect. If you do not know the answer, and you often will not, then take the child with you to a source and find the answer. This may be a dictionary or encyclopedia which he is too young to use himself, but he will have had a sense of participation in finding the answer.

But if you brush aside the eager question, the only way the young child has of learning to understand his world, and say, “I don’t know. . . . Don’t bother me; can’t you see I am busy?” or, worse still, “What a silly question!” something bad will happen in time. If the child’s curiosity is not fed, if his questions are not answered, he will stop asking questions. And then, by the time he is in his middle twenties, he will stop wondering about all the mysteries of his world. His curiosity will be dead.

For curiosity, interest, and a longing to know more and more types of experience are the qualities that stimulate a desire to know about life and to understand it. They provide the zest that makes it possible to meet any situation as an adventure. Without that spirit of adventure, life can be a dull business. With it, there is no situation, however limiting, physically or economically, which cannot be filled to the brim with interest. Indeed, without interest, it is almost impossible to continue to learn; certainly, it is impossible to continue to grow.

I hope that I can remember this in the coming years. Life with children is always hectic. That’s not an excuse to short-change them, though. Let me always have the patience to answer their questions!

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