Nothing New Under the Sun

A few years ago a thought occurred to me that I believed was an original and clever insight on my part. I was discussing standardized testing (one of my pet subjects) and I said something to the effect that I cared more about what questions kids ask than what answers they give. I’ve repeated this a few times over the years with modifications. “Your questions say more about you than your answers.” “We need to teach students to ask questions more than to give answers.” Always attributing the quote to myself. That all ended yesterday, when I was reading up on Voltaire and came across this:

“Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

Oh. I suppose a few billion people before me did have the opportunity to stumble across this bit of wisdom. What makes it even richer is that within an hour of reading the above sentence from Voltaire, I chanced on the following quotation from Alfred North Whitehead:

“Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not
discover it.”

Indeed.

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Do You Have Something to Read?

“Oh no. I forgot my book!” That was me, in the salon where I had taken my son for a haircut. Imagine it said in a tone of real panic, because it was. I was reduced to reading a fashion magazine while I waited. Not reading didn’t seem like an option. There was printed matter in front of me, after all, even if it wasn’t my first choice of material.

“Do you have something to read?” This is me any time I’m taking a road trip with my kids.I ask this the way other moms ask “Did you pack your toothbrush?”  I try to remind them, as well, if we’re going some place with a waiting room – doctor, dentist, etc. “Bring a book; we might have to wait.” My kids and I have serious discussions about what they’re going to read next when one of them has just finished a book. These are the among the most joyous conversations of my life.

I found the greatest purse at a yard sale. It’s big enough to fit my wallet and a book. I try to keep a book with me most of the time. I know people who claim they don’t have time to read. But I’ve finished many a chapter while sitting outside a school, waiting for a kid to come out the door. Also, I read while I eat breakfast. And on my break at work. I’ve even been seen cooking dinner with a spatula in one hand and a book in the other. I don’t burn too many things. Thank goodness I’ve never caught a book on fire. Yet.