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Nancy Kline: Questions help people to think while statements encourage obedience.
One perspective is that life without questions is a lot smoother and easier. Questions challenge, disrupt, disturb and unearth. Why would we want to invite all that nonsense into our lives? That’s hard. That’s hectic.
But boredom and a minimal thinking existence is even more hectic. Questions bring life. They are oxygen for the brain and soul. They blow dust off our so called knowledge and bit by bit, question by question, they enable our understanding and perceptions to get a make-over.
This is because without questions life becomes a conveyor belt of predictability and over-processed knowledge with the nutritious and generative value of a McD’s burger. With questions, gradually life looks interesting again, bigger, more varied, up for debate, uncertain, something of an adventure, new ingredients being included with every new question.
The thing is questions also bring risk, a certain fear of the unknown answers, the possibility that our well established, half-baked understanding might have to change and we might have to take another look.
So that is what the Naledi programme essentially does. Through a questioning framework, it helps youth to see that there is just so much more on the menu than dull, lifeless burgers. The questions rattle them, shaking out all the mouldy knowledge and semi-liquid beliefs that are sort-of holding their lives together. Gradually youth are introduced to a whole new diet of ideas, the questions giving them little bouts of a sort of healthy indigestion.
Questions make youth work, and we were all born to work. Work brings purpose. Without work, the brain shrinks to a blob of grey with little form or direction. So in Naledi, we expand young minds, expand young people’s horizons. Through asking and being asked, they find colour, surprise and purpose. Sometimes with the blunt and sometimes with the sharp knife of questioning, they peel life to realise just how juicy it really is, just how beautifully dense and rich it is.
Questions are youth’s power, questions are their liberation from the confines of a meaning to their lives that has been given to them, clumsily wrapped up in a second hand box. They can at last reject the given meaning and decide for themselves what it is really all about and what it could be. Because questions start to tell them that they needn’t agree, they needn’t comply, that No is as much an option as Yes, that curiosity never killed the cat.