Dumb question

Whoever said, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question,” didn’t know Robroy.

In a cavernous lecture hall for Biology 101 — the first class of my freshman year at University of Illinois — I sat with Mike Hoffman from high school and around 400 strangers.  The professor, a widely acclaimed scientist, according to Mike, was wrapping up his opening remarks by encouraging our participation because, as he said, “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

Always one to test this theory, Robroy raised his hand.  The prof nodded.  Mike cringed as I called out, “Do frogs have bones?”

It was supposed to be funny.  I always thought I could catch a teacher on that one.  I envisioned him rubbing his chin and saying, “You know what?  I’ll be damned.  In all my years, that’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.”  He could get a laugh, improving the lecture, and I could spread my mayhem.  Win-win.

Unfortunately, the professor took me seriously.  “Oh, yes.  Frogs have many bones,” he said.  “Now, please turn to the syllabus.”

I sat there with the smile drying off my face while everyone turned to the syllabus.

At first, I felt foolish.  Then a wave of embarrassment, deepening to shame.  Ug, my ego, my horrible ego!  It was costing me an education.  Had I accepted his authority, and my own anonymity, had I insisted on the natural order of things, and not my own agenda, I could have asked so many better questions: Will I ever be loved?  Do I even belong here?  What am I supposed to do with my life?

So that’s what I learned.  Any questions?

(please comment below)

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6 Responses to “Dumb question”

  1. Paul Dube says:

    My sense of humor is off to the left; even though I think that I am funny as hell- usually not. So my leason learned is not to expose my sense of humor!

  2. Ed Eusebio says:

    Profs correct response should have been, “Yes frogs have bones, but not at first. When they are tadpoles, they have cartilaginous skeletons.”

    Your “brilliant” professor missed the opportunity take his students on a fascinating walk through biological metamorphosis.

    So there are sill no stupid questions, no matter what the initial motivation. :D

    • Robroy says:

      Thanks, for your reply Ed – you’ve given us a new word for the day … “cartilaginous.” Bet you didn’t wake up this morning knowing you’d say that today!

  3. Janet Marron says:

    I see you taking the opportunity for a creative moment. A moment to get eye to eye and get a few laughs; make your mark for a moment. A strong comparison would be..you..now. at a conference but not the speaker. After you stand in line for the microphone to make your question,TO MAKE YOUR MARK in this network. You recieve a peak response. Afterward attendees approach you to discuss your comments and invite you to call.
    OR…you could make your comment into the microphone, pause and the next person in line is at the microphone, just like a bums rush. Its all practice beating back the alter ego.

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