Faculty share impressions of dim-witted questions

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Questions can come in many forms, and sometimes they can make absolutely no sense.

 “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” It is such a common phrase; whether or not it is true can be interesting to answer. You can ask several people, and you will get many different answers as to whether stupid questions exist or not.

“Yes, but very rarely,” adjunct music professor Caroline Jennings said. “A stupid question is when a student sends me an email saying, ‘I missed class today. Was it important?’ I disclose everything I go over in class that is on the syllabus.”

 Jennings said stupid questions are going to come to all of us, but that most of them can be avoided if we try to answer our own question first.

“Every student has access to what we are going over in class from day one,” Jennings said. “So when a student asks what we did in class that day, I always say, ‘Go read the syllabus’ rather than answer the question. That is a stupid, annoying question.”

Jennings said even if her students think their questions are silly, if it helps them to better understand the material, she’s happy to answer any of those questions.

Students deal with questions all the time. Some students, on the other hand, feel very differently about stupid questions.

“No I don’t think there is such thing as a stupid question as long as they are not being sarcastic,” said Quinn Gentry, a freshman general education major from St. George. “What some people think is a stupid question, someone might legitimately ask because they don’t understand.”

Most thoughts on if stupid questions exist or not come back together to the same point.

“Yes, sometimes,” said Spanish professor Lucia Taylor. “It’s like when someone asks you, ‘Where is the exit?’ and you point up saying, ‘Uh, yeah.’ But I’m usually the one asking the stupid questions.”

This example points to when the answer is obvious, especially right in front of you. But we are all human, and we all make mistakes, Taylor said.

Many students have the opinion that questions cannot be stupid because it is a process of gaining information.

“My opinion is as long as there is some purpose to the question it’s pretty hard to call it stupid,” said Rodney Warr, a senior communication major from St. George. “There is always a motive or reason for asking a question.”

Dianne Hirning, an associate librarian at Dixie State University, recalled a time when a lady came into a public library she worked at with a copy of an x-ray of her broken arm.

“She wanted the librarian to verify that the doctor was wrong, as if we have a medical degree,” Hirning said.

An interesting resource the DSU library has is Ask a Librarian, where students can send a question to one of the library staff members via text, email or live chat. This has led to some experience with stupid questions.

“We get questions, especially through Text a Librarian, where they are trying to be funny,” Hirning said. “Like, ‘How do I ask a girl on a date?’” 

Hiring said the most common question the library receives is not stupid, but not at all the right kind of question.

“[Students] will commonly ask us what they need to do for their assignments,” Hirning said. “[The librarians] don’t know unless we have a paper from the instructor. [Students] expect us to know what their instructor wants without knowing the class, who the instructor is, and what the assignment sheet says.”

Based on the opinions of the DSU students and staff, a question might be considered stupid if:

  • The information a person is seeking is readily available and this person has been made aware of the availability before.

  • Sarcasm is laced into the question.

  • The answer is right in front of a person and simple observation is needed.

  • The information is being asked of someone not qualified to answer.