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Questions are more important than answers++ #15

++Parenting Courses; Vignettes from The GenWise Club

Quote of the Week

Knowing the answers will help you in school. Knowing how to question will help you in life. – Warren Berger, Author of ‘A More Beautiful Question’
 

Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and collaborating on this.

In this week’s main post Arsh Kabra, a student at Ashoka University argues why learning to question is far more important than ‘learning answers’.

You are invited to be an early member and beta-tester of the GenWise Club (ages 13-90), a community of interested students, parents, and educators. Check out the upcoming events section on how to join the club. It is open to all in the current beta phase. 

Join this conversation on learning, by commenting on our posts, or joining our club community for more regular and closer interactions.

Contents


The Question of the Answer


Vignettes from the GenWise Club


Upcoming Parenting Courses @GenWise


Upcoming External Events (Free & Paid)

The Question of the Answer

This post is written by Arsh Kabra, a student of English and Creative Writing at Ashoka University.

We live in a world of many answers. I’ve dismissed volumes full of answers that my ancestors would never have seen in many lifetimes. Answers listen to our whim—slaves to our beck and call.

We live in a world where we are taught answers. We are taught to answer. We are searching for answers.  Is that a way to live? Is that a way to learn? Is what we need an answer?

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a “pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent species of beings” creates Deep Thought, a computer, to formulate the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. After seven and a half million years, Deep Thought produces the Answer: 42.

That’s it. 42. 

The obsessive search for answers is meaningless. It provides no real insights, develops no real skills, and is ultimately useless.

But hey, I got 86% in tenth grade, so that’s gotta count for something, right?

Right?

Textbooks are a never-ending series of answers to questions that are either formulated arbitrarily, or sometimes do not even exist. They are a collection of arbitrarily chosen facts that we’ve all been gaslit into thinking are the important. The whole textbook could be replaced by 42, and I would know exactly as much as I knew before.

Because what the pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent species of beings didn’t realize is that they were asking for an answer, but they were not asking a question.

“What is the square root of 55412?” is not a question, it’s a plea for an answer.

Who decided that the textbooks I was given contain the exact information I need to know in order to become a functioning member of society? Why have these specific facts and events been chosen? What is the Question that yields the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Now, those are questions. 

In fact, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, that same pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent species of beings created a computer to figure out what the Question was. What do you think that computer was called?

“Earth.” A computer so large that it began to house life, and it became home to a race of primitive ape-like beings known as humans.

If The Hitchhiker’s Guide is to be believed, our purpose was to ask the Question.

Let’s take this sentiment and unpack it a little, setting aside its comedic and absurdist origins. 

We’re here to ask questions. The answers have already been found, they’re out there. We’ve created a massive database where all the answers are on our fingertips. We have devices in our pockets that allow us to know the answers within seconds. All we have to do is ask the questions. And yet, what do they teach us in schools? To find answers.

The institutions that we pay to help us understand our roles in society, and carry them out to our fullest extent do not teach us to do what may well be our primary function. Instead, they teach us to do what has already been done for us. They have become a redundant part of our society. And yet, they are the rock around which every life in our society is built. 

To look for answers, one must know the question. And if we know the question—the true question—we know that things are a lot more complicated than just one answer. 

You see, any question that has only one answer is not the question you should be asking. If it has only one answer, it is redundant to ask it, because the answer has already been found. To try and find another answer, we must ask a question to which not all answers have been found.

We should not be looking for one true answer, because there is no such thing.

And in our never-ending search for answers, we will have no context for what we have found. Our computers will stare at us and calmly declare: “42.” 

Vignettes from the GenWise Club

Harry Potter Quiz in the Club Lounge

GenWiser Sarayu writes about the Harry Potter quiz she moderated on Saturday, June 19, in the GenWise Club Lounge.

We started off the session with an icebreaker; everyone talked about their favourite characters in the book series and explained why they liked those characters. We chatted about some of the underrated characters in the book, and how the movie didn’t do justice to these characters, such as Ron Weasley.

The quiz had two rounds: one was with regular questions to test the general knowledge of the books/movies. The second round was a picture round wherein illustrations were shown to students who were asked to identify a particular character or thing.

Overall, the students were complete whizzes, with most questions being answered with ease. One of the trickier questions was the shape of Dumbledore’s (the headmaster of Hogwarts) scar- the answer being a map of the London Underground! We had five participants, of which Rohan and Anarv tied for first place with 70 points each (the others were very close). The students liked the picture round that required them to identify names/objects in a particular picture, as it made them think more carefully. The students also enthusiastically answered unmarked trivia posed to them. There are definitely trickier sessions to come, perhaps with other books!

Student created BOT

Omkaar is a grade 8 student and an active member of The GenWise Club. He is also a member of the server administration team now on account of his enthusiasm and the skills he has picked up.

I am Omkaar, and I have created a Discord Bot called Infinix (https://discord.ly/infinix). I had seen some of my friends create a Discord Bot and I thought that I should give it a try. I looked up some tutorials on making a Discord Bot. I already knew Python, and I started creating a bot using the discord.py API.

At first, I added simple features like kicking and banning members. Then, I started working on more advanced features like answering any question, with the help of other APIs. Recently I started developing an economy for my bot which is a feature where people can use commands to earn coins.

Members of the Genwise Club mainly use my bot for gaining coins and searching for web content directly from discord (song information for example).

In other servers, my bot is used for compiling LaTeX. This helps me find errors and fix them.

Most of my bot’s commands don’t have bugs, but there are still many that do. Currently, my bot gets updated every week, but after I am done, it will be updated once a month. My goal is to create a bot that helps many users; an all-in-one features bot, so that you don’t have to add multiple bots to your server, one does the job!

How do I join the GenWise Club?

Check out this link for more about the club. To join-


Get an account for you and/ or your child on Discord


Use this invite to join the GenWise server. If you face difficulties, please send a whatsapp message to Vishnu on 9342247734 (Or email vishnu@genwise.in).


Direct Message (DM) Vishnu with your full name and details (child/ parent, grade, school) once you slide into The GenWise Club. You will be assigned the appropriate role after that and can start interacting with us and other members!

Upcoming Parenting Courses @GenWise

GenWise mentor, Dr. Bhooshan Shukla’s highly popular courses on parenting are coming up. Early registrations can avail an early bird discount.

Among other things, the biological pandemic out there has spawned an excessive-gadget-usage-pandemic among children. If you are one of those zillions of parents feeling frustrated in your attempts to understand and regulate gadget use by your child/children, you should check out the course on gadgets and screen time.

This is a two hour, 1 session, interactive course which looks at-


The gadget in the life of a child


The three kinds of heavy Gadget users


Monitoring and regulating usage at different stages


Being effective and empathetic  

Here’s what parents who’ve attended this course have to say:


Upcoming External Events


The Theory behind Everyday Games (Chai and Why series targeted at children) on Sunday, July 18, 2021 at 11 AM by the cool TIFR outreach team. Zoom, YouTube & FBLive links available here. The session is conducted by Umang Bhaskar, a faculty member in the School of Technology and Computer Science at TIFR. The session blurb says-

“What is common to an auction and allocation of seats in an engineering college? Why does building a new road sometimes lead to worse traffic? And why can’t we ever have a perfect system of voting? These problems may not sound like the games we commonly play, but the theory behind them is known as game theory. In this session, we’ll try and understand what game theory is, what’s common to all these problems, as well as try to address some of them.”


“The social brain – insights from neuroscience of relevance to human social interactions” is a talk by Dr. Vidita Vaidya (Neuroscientist and Professor at TIFR) on July 22, 2021 at 4 PM. Here is the YouTube link for the talk.


Biodiversity in my Bengaluru Backyard Contest, for students of grades 9-12 based in Bengaluru. Details of the contest are available here.


Camp HSS from Jul 30- Aug 1,2021 is for students in grades 8-12 and is brought to us by the fantastic folks at IIT Gandhinagar (coordinated by Jaison Manjaly with faculty from Univ of Colorado, Yale, IIT Delhi etc.). Check out this page for details and to register. (Free)

The camp write-up is very exciting- “If whales and elephants have bigger brains than humans, why aren’t they smarter? Why do you love the taste of a particular chocolate brand and the sight of a specific colour? What is the possible setting in which a 75 out of 100 in an exam may feel better than a 90? What are the probable thoughts going on in the mind of a batsman when he has to score a 6 in the last ball to win the match? ……..Discover the intricacies of your gender, body, creativity, origins of thinking, and several other aspects of human intellectual and social life through various interactive sessions and talks.”


The Veritasium Science Communication Contest- We love the videos Veritasium puts out! If creating a science communication video excites you, take part in this contest and have fun. You may win up to US$ 5000 too! The sooner you upload your video to YouTube, the better your chances are…though the deadline is Aug 31, 2021 .

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