21 April 2006

Survey Time Again

On a boring day in March, I asked some 20 people a short series of questions. On another boring Saturday in April, I figured I'd repeat the experiment.

This time, I chose a different shopping center and a different topic, without any "catch-point" question. I simply wanted to discuss a topic that occupies a lot of My thoughts.

Probably significant, a total of 34 persons answered and talked with Me. Only a handful seemed uncomfortable and most were philosophical, though in ways meant to excuse rather than illuminate.

My first question to random strangers was "What did you learn yesterday?" (I nixed saying "today" to avoid the fairly-obvious reply "Nothing yet.") Not surprisingly, 22 people immediately replied "Nothing." At first, I quickly asked "Are you sure?", but I figured silence would work better and it did. Prompted thusly, a list would emerge, usually of about 3 items, in halting fashion. Answers ranged from "how to wash clothes" to "what I will do when I retire" and from "that I love my sister" to "my church needs a better pastor."

Many of the answers were the result of hard thought, prompting some quips of "You're making me work!" If the person could come up with one answer and I kept quiet, (not exactly an automatic option), the person would continue thinking and come up with 2-3 more. About half the time, we'd discuss their first or second answer and I noticed these conversations flowed easily.

My second question elicited a different type and level of response: "What did you teach yesterday?" This one drew blank stares more often than not, some of them going on for almost a minute. Most people would repeat the word "teach" as if encountering it for the first time. Less than half of the 31 (see below) gave Me an answer and none gave Me more than one answer. The few conversations We had about these answers were tentative, as if We were walking through a heavily-furnished room in total darkness.

Three men I approached adamantly refused to answer My first question, the three acting in exactly the same fashion: they turned their back while simultaneously throwing their right hand up in the air and saying "I learned nothing!" Must be a dance step. (Some would call it "The Jenius Turndown".) Might be significant: these three men were by far the unhappiest-looking of My survey group.

A large number of these people seemed embarrassed by how little they'd learned or taught, more because they really hadn't thought about learning or teaching as a daily activity except for those in school. (The word "school" came up almost exclusively when the person was trying to explain why he or she wasn't learning.) As for being teachers, every time I used the word "example" (as in "Be an example") I got a Charles Barkley-like rejection of the idea that the person was or could be an example. As far as I know, everybody I spoke to about this was a parent. Makes one wonder...

Did I learn anything? Yes. Learning is like liberty: We pay lip-service to its importance, but We do little as a whole to keep it alive. As for teaching, that's more like Duty: We recognize it exists and encourage it in others, but not in Ourselves.

I noticed a couple of days later that no one asked Me why I was asking these questions. (I got that a couple of times in My first effort.) I'm still not sure what to make of that.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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