~ By Bertha Henson ~
Because I have been in the business of asking questions for so long, I was interested to read about students' reactions to having their questions lobbed back at them by ministers in ST today in the Home section. Seems they are uncomfortable with this. I've had my own questions thrown back at me by newsmakers many times too in the past. But I could always resort to the phrase: I am a journalist, I shouldn't be giving my opinion. (In other words, hey, just answer lah).
I suppose students can't reply in that way – nor should they do a Rueben. But really there are so many ways to ask a question that will get you a proper answer. Also, it's the context that counts. Is this a Q&A session or a dialogue? Should there be engagement of minds? Or just one mind emptying itself out…?
Let's take the question on whether $100 entry levy is enough to deter Singaporeans from gambling at casinos that was cited in the article. With the question posed this way, it's safe to assume that the questioner DOESN"T think it's enough. Frankly, I would like to know why too before proceeding to answer to thekquestion..Obviously, the question has made a judgment call. In any case, what sort of answer could anyone expect? The minister will say not enough? We calculated wrongly? Wow…that would be a news story.
Or maybe the questioner DOESN'T have an opinion on the matter (didn't research it or whatever) and just wants to hear what the minister has to say. If so, ask it this way: How did the Government arrive at $100 as the entry levy to deter Singaporeans from going to casinos? Or: Why does the Government think that $100 levy is enough to deter Singaporeans from gambling?That way, you get a more informative answer and if you are fast on your feet, y/u can ask a follow-up question: Based on what you said about XXX, don't you think $100 is too low?
BTW, I note that these students are invited to a dialogue, not a monologue. That means, in my book, having an opinion based on facts and calling on the other party to respond. So some thinking and researching should have been done in advance. But if that can't be done for some reason, then just ask for information and insight. Hopefully, you'll get an epiphany.
TOC thanks Bertha Henson for her contribution, this article first appeared on her blog. Bertha Henson is a former Associate Editor of 'The Straits Times'.