Saturday, May 28, 2005

Good Question



Omar Hakim: Drummer extraordinaire

A few days ago my fifteen year old son Ethan and I went to a drum clinic featuring world renowned drummer Omar Hakim. The small room at the Regent was packed with 300 or more people all eager to catch a glimpse of Omar who’s played with legends such as Miles Davis, Weather Report, Sting, David Bowie, and Madonna. After a mind-blowing performance on the Pearl Reference Series drum kit (he played to tracks amplified straight from his iPod) it was time to take some questions from the floor. And here’s the point I want to make. We had questions like -

“How many hours do you practice in a day?”
“How many single strokes can you play in a minute?”
“So who are your influences?”

Ethan whispered that these were “inevitable” questions. Of course there were some interesting questions too, but they were just too few. Apart from the preoccupation with technique, speed, and hardware, is the fact that we weren’t asking good questions.

A friend of mine who’s with the media once told me that many Malaysians simply don’t have a feel for good questions. In the course of her job, she has had to sit through media interviews where visiting celebrities and performers field questions from our journos. Invariably they would ask questions like, “So how do you find Malaysia?” which is rather dumb considering the celebrity in question has just touched down. Or “How do you like Malaysian food?” when the said star has just been whisked from airport to hotel.

Neil Postman in his book Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century laments the lack of critical thinking skills which comes from question-asking.

“...all the knowledge we have is a result of our asking questions; indeed, that question-asking is the most significant intellectual tool human beings have. Is it not curious, then, that the most significant intellectual skill available to human beings is not taught in school?”

The reason no one is teaching our children the "art and science of asking questions" is because those in authority prefer students to be answer-givers, not question-askers, believers, and not sceptics, says Postman. “They want to measure the quantity of answers, not the quality of questions (which, in any case, is probably not measurable),” he adds.

What do you make of an observation like that?

2 comments:

Sivin Kit said...

i think we are too preoccupied with finding THE answer that we miss asking QUALITY questions

The Hedonese said...

dum.. dee.. dee... dum...

Chris Rice's lyrics

"God is the exclamation point for every question mark"...