We are going to ignore for a moment the axiom, “There are no stupid questions.” Whether you agree with it or not, there are some questions that are better than others. Generally, these questions don’t deal with the subject at hand, but ask about policies of the teacher. Here are a few stupid questions students ask in college:
Stupid Question # 1: Can we Get out Early Today?
You are paying hundreds of dollars in tuition money. Each minute that you spend on homework or in class is on your pocket. If you want to leave early, go early. You’re not in high school anymore.
When I go to a fast food restaurant, I fill up my fountain drink until it has reached the top. I paid for the thing so I want to get as much out of that soda machine as possible. Your college education should be the same—if you are going to pay +/-$2,000 a semester for it, then you should suck as much out of your professors as possible.
Stupid Question # 2: Are we Doing Anything Important on Friday?
What you are really asking is, “Can I get away with ditching class on Friday?” The professor may even think you’re really asking, “Can I be sick on Friday?” What you are telling the professor is that you value your free time more than you value the lesson that they have prepared. There will be times when it is prudent or even necessary to skip class. If your mother is on her deathbed, your wife is giving birth, or you are sitting at home throwing up your breakfast, you should probably skip class.
In such a case, I would recommend a different question. . . .
Smarter question: I have to miss class on Friday; what can I do so I can learn the content you’ll be covering that day?
This question acknowledges the fact that what the professor is teaching is important. It also shows that you are taking responsibility for the time missed. Throwing in a few “I regrets” or an “unfortunately” or two couldn’t hurt either. This kind of positioning won’t only help you to find out what you will be missing, but it will help you gain favor in the eyes of your professor.
Stupid Question # 3: Will this be on the Test?
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re the professor and your student asks you this question. What is your student really asking? He or she is asking if what you’re teaching is important. What are you, as the professor, going to answer? “No, what I’m teaching is completely insignificant!”? I doubt it. With some exceptions, most professors are trying to give you the best education they can. What they say really is important.
Instead of questioning whether each concept is going to be on the test or not, take time to try to learn all of it. Give each class your maximum effort. If you master each concept, the need for questions such as, “Will this be on the test?” will diminish.