Silly questions

1280px-2006_sardines_can_openA short one from me, as it seems I’m less free from the joys of Brexit than I imagined.

Tuesday afternoon found me on a very slow-moving train, with many, many other people, all trying to get home on what was the hottest day of the year. As is traditional, this meant the trains were all messed up, hence the sardine-packing, something that us Brits love, because it forces us to confront our profound horror of others within our personal space. Especially when they’re all sweaty.


Any way, one of the guys who’d managed to squeeze into the carriage noted laconically (that’s how we all speak BTW) that “this never happened in the old days. we should go back to renationalised railways”.

Now I was too sweaty and tired to ask why he thought this might be true (plus it would have meant acknowledging someone in my personal space, sweating), but it did get me thinking. Thinking to point that I found myself some hours later (not on the train, fortunately) googling some stats to help find an answer.

Such is my life.

We like to say that there are no stupid questions in teaching and that’s broadly true. However, that’s not the same as knowing how to deal with stupid questions (and yes, I know the guy wasn’t asking a question, but you get the point).

So here’s the deal. Assuming this had all been in a classroom setting, how would you have drawn out this point? What questions would you have asked the guy by way of geting him to elaborate? How would you have then reached a position on whether this was actually a good idea?

Personally, my approach would have been to get him to explain his logic. Was this about delays or over-crowding or trains on hot days? Was it drawn from his personal experience or some external data? What would be his metrics for determining all of this?

In terms of data, we could look for metrics on train delays, over-crowding and the rest, but also considering growth in rail usage, capital investment, changing management structures and many other things that might impinge on the matter.

In short, stupid questions are great gateways to big issues, but we have to work through them systematically and comprehensively. And that can be your takeaway from all this, rather than the sweat.