You can’t understand the answer if you don’t understand the question.

I hope someone said this before me. Let me know if you can point out who did.

We educators think we should spend most of our time teaching the answers that brilliant minds have found. And that is surely right, and it is a great pleasure to both the teacher and the student to study these answers.

But we can’t understand the answer till we understand the question, and we’re not very good at explaining questions. We especially need to explain how to understand a question from a perspective that allows for many possible answers, not just the one that we think we have settled on as the right answer.

Advances come from overturning an idea; and that always means going back to the Question to which that idea was the Answer, and asking that Question again. It usually takes an especially brilliant (which is to say, Free) mind to do that. Why? Because we do not teach people to understand that we have not understood an idea till we understand the Question it answered. Once we see that, we will be set free to consider other Answers that just might be better from today’s point of view.

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