One of the most irritating question words in the world is “why?” Why, you ask? Why? opens dialogue. Why? questions authority. Why? demands justification.

The other five honest serving men (what, when, how, who and where?) are much more closed. Much less challenging. They simply demand information, data. But why? causes arguments. Why? can start wars. Why? as a howl of anguish can curdle blood. Why? can start a revolution.

That is why we avoid teaching our children the power of why? By putting this most powerful of interrogatives into their learning toolbox, we are giving them permission, nay the obligation, to question, empowering them to rock the boat and interrogate the interconnectedness of their world. And we would not want that.

We work hard to quash this most natural of enquiries, the word/sound/expression that allows the smallest of children to construct their understanding of the ever growing world they inhabit is, at first, accepted but soon runs into the brick wall of “because I said so/it’s just like that”. We work hard as a society to eradicate this pestilent posing until, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson tells us;

Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.

Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and keep the status quo. The status quo is good and not radicalised and not violent and not real.

But maybe there is another way.


Maybe by engendering a love of the question why? in our children, we can help them to ask the big questions. To disrupt the status quo. To enquire into the depths of the universe and the meaning of life. To question peacefully, truthfully and with the intent of making the world a better place. To stare boldly into the eyes of the heavens and ask why?