More and more curious?

A Collaborative Exploration (CE) in which participants investigate how to foster curiosity with a view to seeing new angles of inquiry about the world and our lives

A young child asks "Why?" so many times, the parent insists: "Because I say so!" The U.S. government of the 1980s calls for more research to understand the effects of acid rain before deciding whether to act to reduce emissions from power plants. The U.S. Government of the 2000s asserts that Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction and few in the mass media question the allegations.
What makes the young child so curious? What sustains or revives asking of questions among adults? How patient do parents and teachers need to be for children and adult students to find the questions they need to learn with? When is it time to stop asking questions and take action? How do we foster curiosity at all ages and yet support the need people have to turn inquiry into action? Is curiosity of questioning the way to avoid the negativity of criticism in the academic world--to ensure that critical and creative are complementary parts of a whole? How do we hold on to what we discover when we delve deeper and further into areas we had taken as settled (as Foucault recommends)--when our curiosity shows just how curious the world actually is (as Alice discovers)?

The word [curiosity] pleases me..: it evokes "concern"; it evokes the care one takes for what exists and could exist; a readiness to find strange and singular what surrounds us; a certain relentlessness to break up our familiarities and to regard otherwise the same things; a fervor to grasp what is happening and what passes; a casualness in regard to the traditional hierarchies of the important and the essential.
I dream of a new age of curiosity.
  • Michel Foucault, "The Masked Philosopher"

Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words `EAT ME' were beautifully marked in currants. `Well, I'll eat it,' said Alice, `and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I'll get into the garden, and I don't care which happens!'

She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, `Which way? Which way?', holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing, and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size... Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.

So she set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.
  • * * *
`Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); `now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was!...
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll