Wednesday, July 26, 2006

any questions?

I think the most telling thing about our education system is the spoon-feeding of information to the students. Spoon-feeding does not produce thinkers. It produces doers. In most from the classrooms of school to the lecture halls of university, I think most of us will willingly admit that we have been spoon-fed too much.

At the end of every class or lecture, there would be the customary, "Any questions?" question by the teacher or the lecturer. It seems harmless, really, but that is spoon feeding as well. A lecture could be an hour long. An hour's worth of information is tremendous, and there is no way a student can process all that information (while also listening to the lecturer continue to ramble on in front) and then think of a good question to ask.

At that point, it is safe to say that anybody who asks questions would probably ask stupid questions. An old boss of mine one told me that there was no such thing as a stupid question - only a stupid assumption that arises from that 'stupid question' not being asked. But I digress. Any question that did not require effort or thought is a stupid question.

In my world, teachers in school would go, "If you have any questions, go home and think about it. If you still have a question after that, then you may ask me."

Now, if you go back and read my first line again, I mentioned 'education system' and 'students'. This is by no means limited to students in school and university. We learn something new everyday - even at work, even at home. Such is the cancer of the education system that we were brought up in that our work ethics pretty much dictate that an 'inquisitive' employee is a good one.

I say 'inquisitive' because these are the people who ask questions all the time. At every job I have been at - from my internships as a trainee engineer, to my first job, and to my current job - every boss, every superior, every more experienced person has encouraged me to ask questions. "Jangan takut nak tanye....banyak yang I tak tau jugak." Kudos to everybody who has been helpful. Still, asking questions is not a habit that I enjoy.

You can perhaps call it arrogance - maybe I don't like showing people that I don't know things. Maybe. I like to think of it more as an opportunity to learn things on my own. When I first left to the UK, loads of my friends hunted down their seniors to enquire what I can only describe as inane questions in preparation for their 'trip into the unknown'. When I became a senior myself, there were many times when people asked me questions that I hated. "Is it cold there?"

I don't think it is but everybody complains it is. How the fuck would I know what you define 'cold'? Here's a hint, retard,...check the weather on the Internet!

Forgive the supposed arrogance again. Forgive the atasan mentality. I am an engineer. It is my job to figure out stuffs. Figuring out stuffs is what gives me the kick. It is my coke. That is why I look upon engineers who take the easy way out by asking questions with great distaste.

A : This is an aeroplane. It can fly.
B : How does it fly?

Wrong question, asshole. You should say, "Uh-huh" and then go home and google search aeroplanes. You are permitted to come back the next day and ask about Bernoulli's theorem and Newton's 3rd law if you still don't get it. Key point here is effort. You make an effort to figure something out. You make an effort to explore something and learn it for yourself. ASK ONLY AFTER YOU MADE THE EFFORT TO GET THE ANSWER YOURSELF.

In all my time working, I have only been angered once. I was new at the old job, and my boss thought it would be a good idea to let me sit in a workshop amongst some managers and foremen discussing the best way to improve productivity among the factory staff. Of course, being new and knowing nuts, I wasn't expected to give any input on things - I was supposed to sit in and try to absorb as much information as I could. What was expected, though, were questions - because apparently, that is the best way to learn something.

For the first two days of the three day workshop, people kept asking me, "Any questions Vincent?" Are you sure? Don't be shy. We can't know everything. By the 3rd day, they had gotten fed-up of my customary, "No questions" and they stopped asking. At the end of the workshop, one of the managers approached me with a little advice, "You can't get around learning anything if you don't ask questions. You have to be more inquisitive." Well, I am sorry, asshole. I DO ask questions. I ask myself those questions and then I hunt down the answers myself. And I sure as hell know I learnt more than the other idiot engineer who asked, "Why can't we improve our production rate by just buying more machines?"

I say all this because I spent the last two days trying to figure out some stuffs on my own when I could have gotten an answer in half an hour had I asked someone. Yes, I took a shit of a long time but in the process, I learnt about A LOT of other things which I wouldn't have otherwise learnt.


There's also the sense of pride in self achievement...

Spoon-feeding does not produce thinkers.


It produces doers.

That I don't agree with.

What spoon-feeding does, is to produce memorisers who neither think (because they didn't have to) nor do (because they never thought about the practical implications of what they'd just learnt).


I still believe in keep-asking-policy, but at certain limits. I myself not sure how "at certain limits" meant, I only know that I will ask when I see fit.

So really, was it cold there ? XD


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