“Meaning Questions” or “Why Education is Awesome”

Consider the following excerpt from Max Van Manen’s book, Researching Lived Experience:

          Meaning questions cannot be “solved” and thus done away with. Meaning questions can be better or more deeply understood, so that, on the basis of this understanding I may be able to act more thoughtfully and more tactfully in certain situations. But in some sense meaning questions can never be closed down… (Van Manen, 1990, p. 23)
 
Passages like this should make all educators smile. If we haven’t already, we need to liberate ourselves and our students from the notion that all questions have answers. Instead, we need to implant the understanding, deep within our students minds and our own, that meaning questions aren’t meant to be answered; instead they are the vehicle for cultivating more empathic, thoughtful, and ethical individuals. 
 
The notion that meaning questions, “can never be closed down,” is one that should give us pause. I know that there have been times when I’ve responded to a meaning question in a fashion that either consciously or unconsciously attempted “close down.” In the name of expediency, fatigue, insecurity, or frustration we run the risk of telling our students that their meaning questions won’t be celebrated in our classrooms and institutions. This is sad and all too common. The opposite: celebrating, nurturing, and giving voice to meaning questions is the hallmark of transformative education. 
 

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