“There’s no such thing as a stupid question” is a phrase you’ve probably run into a few hundred times over the course of your life. You’ve probably rolled your eyes, since we all know there really are stupid questions in some circumstances. However, I have to ask, why is it that we feel so self conscious about what we say aloud?
When guest speakers come to ASM, my friends will normally analyze how “deep” and insightful the questions posed to the speaker were, judging the person who asked the question on their intellectual capacity. Even in an everyday class setting, students are timid to ask questions because they are living in fear of being judged. And they are right, because we are always listening to weed out and judge the “stupid” questions.
Why are we afraid? Going to Andover, you would think that everyone feels secure enough to recognize that our student body is quite talented and intelligent. However, if we felt secure about ourselves, why would we be scared of saying the wrong thing aloud in our own community?
The reason we are so afraid is, in fact, because we go to Andover. We feel like we are expected to be exceptional in every aspect, especially in academics. When we enter the classroom where everyone seems to have such profound things to say, the pressure is especially apparent to impress your teachers and classmates.
Sometimes it can be a good thing that we edit our thoughts, since it usually provides a more concise and more interesting observation. However, as my history teacher Mr. Drench says, “perfection is the enemy of innovation.” When we are overcautious, we take away the opportunity to spark someone else’s idea. When we censure our thoughts, we already know where our ideas are going, but no one else can build upon them.
By restricting ourselves, we are creating an atmosphere that not only judges everyone based on how “smart” our comments are but we are also stifling the voice of creativity and innovation. A class discussion is designed for people to bounce ideas off of each other, eventually resulting in a grand conclusion. If we each strive to produce our own individual, structured and edited ideas, we might be missing the chance to build something greater than what we could have accomplished all by ourselves.
Andover should be a place that we feel secure enough in ourselves to let loose and unleash our thoughts. If we can turn the pressure cooker off and feel self-assured enough to make a fool of ourselves once in a while, perhaps we could create a community that not only achieves something grand but also a community that uses teamwork, connecting and uniting the student body based on the idea of trust. We need to trust that we are supportive enough to laugh it off when our friend says something silly, and trust that someone will be there when we ask for help. In a classroom, we must be considerate as well as competitive.
We have come here based on the idea that we are all curious and thirsting for knowledge. However, with little risk, there can be little gain. Sometimes we need to throw caution into the wind in order to accomplish what we want. In the game of Andover, it’s all or nothing, but you can’t win the game if you’re not even willing to play.
Christiana Nguyen is a two-year Lower from Vancouver, WA