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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Ask a Good Question

How to Ask a Good Question 03 13 2010

In this Thursday morning’s edition Investor’s Business Daily newspaper there was a quotation from W. Edwards Deming, a management consultant, the quote on the topic of learning. The quote reads, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” I decided to take this issue by the horns and write essay today, that has a few points regarding asking good questions.

Always think this before asking, “Do you know the answer already?”

Is your question one with a common sense answer or does what you want to know contradict with something you know already and you need a clarification?

Has the person talking to you drawn a verbal path to let you know the answer will be forthcoming, if so wait and do not interrupt.

Has the person talking indicated to you that you might have a question and they know the answer, by giving a visual cue such as a pause or smile, then it might be the appropriate time to ask the question.

Have you given them enough time to talk so that they look like they are starting on another topic and they have left an issue of concern to you glossed over, where clarity to all listening is needed.

Do you feel they have made a mistake in what they said, if so ask for clarification in a way so as not condescending to them. Often people make errors of oversight when speaking. If you recognize this, it is your duty to ask for clarification. Do you think what they said is the opposite of what they should have said? Then ask.

When with a new teacher, there will not be a comfortable repoire established yet. Do not ask in a way to discredit them, consider writing your question down, when it occurs to you and asking it at the end of class, if it hasn’t been clarified. Often by doing this you will see whether your question is still a valid one or not. Meaning has it been answered from their continued talking and the answer “sits right” with you. Do this also if you feel you have been labeled as asking stupid questions in the past, this post analysis will help you ask better questions.

When asking a question, often take the attitude someone else might want to know the answer to that question also. But before asking these types of questions think harder.

And there is a way to ask a rhetorical question without being insulting, do this by asking more of a leading question. Leading questions are good.

Often you can tell you have asked a good question because it will put your professor on a roll, talking, and much is learned from the storytelling experience.

If you once asked a dumb question or got that kind of response from the one you asked it to, learn how to ask better questions and try again.

Have you prepared for class and should have known this answer or does your question address contradictions in teachings that need to be resolved.

Finally, don’t ask self serving questions, or arrogant ones. In the Star Trek series, “Star Trek The Next Generation”, there was a character an all powerful deity or God named Q. His name Q, being a metaphor for Question, and he did ask them. Albeit menacing ones, as the answers to his questions often led to a situation of Pandora for the Enterprise and its crew. Q imposed a resulting fate based on the answer. Was he a deity because he asked good questions? Should the Captain of the Enterprise said just once, “That is the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.” and saved himself from the further impact of these questions that put him and his crew in a fateful quandary? Or did Q’s questions lead to a greater learning experience for the outer space explorers.

In today’s political environment, the good questions aren’t being asked to those opposing change, here would be a good place for Q to start asking.
Copyright 2010 Thomas Paul Murphy

Monday, September 20, 2010

Philos on Learning

Philos of Learning 10 22 2009

In order to prevent we have to understand fully.

In order to understand fully we have to learn.

The essence of learning is forming new beliefs.

In order to form new beliefs we have to accept that we don’t know everything already.

This means subduing our egos.

To accept that we are last and not first while listening.
Copyright 2009 Thomas Paul Murphy

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Code

The Code 02 27 2010

I call this one the code but it could also be called the nature of responsibility.

Drinking and partying are more prevalent when you are in High School and College. What do you do when your friends become obnoxious and start trouble by insulting strangers at bars? One of my less obnoxious friends once told me, "You always backup a friend." I disagreed, “If a friend is drawing you into trouble with them, are they truly your friend?" .

In my younger days I was tougher than my friends and developed a secret code of conduct to keep everyone out of trouble.

If a friend causes trouble that leads to a fight, when you tried to stop them, it's their trouble. The best you can do is to protect your friend defensively. Then get both of you out of there.

If you cause trouble, do not expect anyone else to fight your fight. You caused it, it is your responsibility. Would you be a good friend to your friends if they were drawn in and got badly hurt? As the bible says, "You have to walk that road alone."

If someone else causes trouble with your friend first, stand your ground and try and scare them off. If trouble keeps brewing get your friend and walk slowly and straight by the trouble makers without looking at them, they are not worthy of that. If you do look at them, look them straight in the eye and back it up with a feeling that the world does not deserve that, coupled with it. It is okay to show a little righteous strength as you walk by. If you have to defend your friend in a defensive manner as best you can.

When you and your friend are out of trouble confront him and talk sternly to them. In high school I confronted a friend who was much bigger than I, and said, “I’m not going to put up with that.” All he could say back was, "I'm tired of your meaningless threats." Repetition paid off, and his behavior changed for the better.

If your friend gives you all the free beer you could ever drink, are they really your friend? If they get you into drugs or involved with bad people they are exactly the opposite of your friend.

If you no longer want to be a friend tell them why. What the behavior was you didn’t like, years later they will be thankful for this.

This article was meant for college students but I am finding it is relevant to gangs also. Without rules of conduct you are no better than a gang member who will likely have a miserably shortened life with a violent ending. Gangs ruin for themselves, the very communities in which they live in. People join gangs out of fear. Fear of growing up and being a responsible adult. Fear of losing pro wrestler self image of greatness that isn't true. As a boy becomes a man this ego naturally lessons. It is part of maturation. This does not mean you should not assert opinions when you think you are right. Just the opposite is true, you learn to listen to others and still assert what you think is right. And if you find you are wrong, accept that you are wrong; this is the heart of learning.

About fifteen years ago Al Pacino once said on a late night talk show that his mother kept him in the house and would not let him play with street gang members who were are all incidentally dead or in prison.

The complacent group behavior, whether seen in college students drinking or gang members, is for boy's who can’t stand on their own, or for themselves, not for men. It is the way of the coward. It is detrimental to society as a whole not just you.

It’s hard to find good friends, let’s keep the ones we have out of trouble.
Copyright 2010 Thomas Paul Murphy

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Broken Camera

The Broken Camera 03 10 2010

When I was a boy we had a Kodak Instamatic camera we used to sparingly take pictures with on vacations. It took rolls of film that were expensive to us.

A bully at school, we’ll call him Beasil, got one of those new slim Kodak cameras for his birthday. It was better because it took a cartridge of film and you didn’t have to worry about ruining the whole roll of film from exposure because it was always mostly in the cartridge.

I thought I could take pictures. I had to have one too, so I got one also, a Kodak but one model number better than his. I think mine had a flash that used batteries and slid on the end of it.

James Bond movies were a big draw to us in the 70’s and we all thought we were international spies with our small rectangular Minox shaped cameras. Minox was the spy camera James Bond used to take pictures of intelligence documents in the nick of time and to the evasion of capture.

I showed mine to Beasil one day at school and he fumbled around with it for awhile and either he dropped it or I was so nervous about letting him look and breaking that I accidently dropped it when I got it back. Something was loose inside it and it did not work anymore. I could never tell my parents and when I did I got bawling out good that lingered for a long time.

I was always under the impression that I could fix it myself. Because I am a fix it myself type of person and have always had that ability. But I took it apart and two springs sprang out every which way and I could not put it back together. So in pieces I put it in a shoebox and stored it on a shelf in my bedroom closet. Every so often I would grab that box while cleaning the closet and here the parts rattling around inside open the lid look inside and quickly close it again. It sat in that box until I was 39 years old and with much apprehension regarding photography bought a Cannon digital camera. No expensive film to worry about and a good strong lense.

After my brief 29 year learning through angst hiatus from photography I started taking pictures again and was told that I have photographic talent. And everybody does indeed love my pictures.

My third Camera is a Cannon Rebel XSI and I have three nice lenses that interchange with its body.

And that Beasil who allegedly dropped my first camera is a photographer for a major department store.

Copyright 2010 Thomas Paul Murphy

Originally Published on 03 10 2010 at