June 6, 2011

Meme Monday: Please, Don’t Ask Stupid Questions

Filed under: SQLServerPedia Syndication — Joe Casella @ 9:15 am

I’ll never forget my very first day as a philosophy TA. I’d been assigned to”Introduction to Ethics” and Professor Oldenquist was describing his expectations and class mechanics. After explaining that, “no, ethical theory is not just a matter of opinion” and “yes, we can give you an objective grade”, he walked to the edge of the stage, smiled wryly, and said: “There’s one more thing I’d like to clear up: you may hear some of your professors say that ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question’. They’re wrong. That’s rubbish. There are stupid questions, please don’t ask them in my class.”

He paused for effect and continued, “A stupid question is one whose sole purpose is to make the speaker look bad or the questioner look good.  Please, don’t ask them in my class”.

We still got our share of “stupid” questions (embarrassing new TAs is a Big 10 sport, after all) but I think that bit of administrivia was his most important lesson of the quarter.

Which brings me to “Stupid SQL Questions”, the subject of this month’s MemeMonday creative writing assignment.

Whenever I’m at a user group or seminar and the speaker says “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.”   I remember Professor Oldenquist.  Yes, there are stupid questions.  In a professional context, a stupid question is one that’s designed to make the speaker look bad, the questioner look good, or one that derails the speaker from the presentation’s topic to “a problem I encountered this week.”

Yes, there are stupid SQL questions: please, don’t ask them.



  1. Great point. A pet peeve of mine as well. As a presenter or as a fellow audience member. Takes time away from anything useful.

    Comment by Mike Walsh — June 6, 2011 @ 10:09 am | Reply

  2. Agreed, well said. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, except for stupid questions.

    Comment by John Sansom — June 6, 2011 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  3. Excellent post Mike. To many times people want to play “Stump the Chump”. All that does is waste time and make the questioner look bad. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where an audience member, trying to score points by going after the speaker, got any credit in my eyes.

    Comment by Mike Fal — June 6, 2011 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

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