What makes a question "gifted?"
It is a question that unlocks a mystery, leads to a breakthrough, sets in motion an impeachment or possibly changes the course of history or a person's life.
A gifted question is a close cousin of essential questions and questions of import, but what makes it gifted is the capacity to penetrate and counter conventional thinking. Gifted questions have a way of turning everything upside down and inside out.
A gifted question is pivotal. Asking such a question may take courage as well as powerful thought. These questions are not always greeted with enthusiasm. To the contrary, they are sometimes labeled unpatriotic or heretical.
We expect our political leaders to pose gifted questions so as to guide us into the future safely. We expect journalists to pose gifted questions so as to keep the political leaders honest. We expect our doctors to pose gifted questions so they may help us to make smart treatment decisions.
Schools should equip students with the capacity to generate and appreciate such questions, but they must also help them to understand their power and the risks attached to posing them.
It is worth remembering that Socrates was executed for teaching the youth of Athens to ask such questions.
Gifted questions in the year 2020
Looking ahead to next year, fast approaching, there are dozens of gifted questions worth considering. Some are national in scope. Some are personal.
Questions that are socially or politically important.
• What are the qualities of a good president or national leader? - a question explored in the summer 2019 issue of this journal.
Questions that are personally important.
• What can leaders of a country do to restore harmony, good will and peaceful feelings after a period of extreme conflict, disunity and hard feelings?
• What is America's place in the world?
• Should we continue with NATO?
• What is the best policy toward Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, Syria and others?
• What is the best way forward for the American economy?
• What is the best way to create exciting, high-paying jobs for the Rust Belt?
• What is the best approach to tariffs?
• What can be done to reverse global warming?
• Who are my true friends?
• What is the best financial investment I can make in this new year?
• Which treatment is best for my cancer?
• Which doctor can deliver that treatment most effectively?
• What is the best way to lower my blood pressure without taking any pills?
• What is my opponent's greatest weakness? (debate, politics, football, tennis, etc.)
• Which sectors of the economy promise the best opportunities in the next two decades?
• What can I do to win the undying, sustained love of my romantic partner?
• How can I tell when someone is trying to scam me?
• How can I write a winning college entrance essay or job letter that sets me apart?
• How can I eat in a healthy way?
• Which teachers are likely to treat me well next year?
• What is the best way for me to handle my difficult and sometimes abusive boss? teacher? parent? roommate? coach?