Asking questions

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I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

– Attributed to Voltaire.

Do you have the right to ask a question? Is there such a thing as a right to inquiry? Is there such a thing as a question so intrusive that you have no right to ask it?

These are questions that arguably affect the most vital essence of journalism; however, they also pertain to life in general and to our own Core curriculum at the University of Dallas. As an aspiring journalist at UD, I am passionate about asking questions and finding answers. Still, people will not always respond positively to my inquiries.

The question of inquiry rights arose in front of my face when I confronted a peer who particularly intimidated me. His past behaviors had struck me as thoroughly unnerving. With a dragon-slaying mentality, I intended to conquer both my fear of him and my fear of the harsh inquisition sometimes required of a journalist.

At one point, my interviewee lost his composure and angrily stated that I had no right to ask those questions.

I was blindsided. His claim went against everything I stood for as a student and as myself.   Of course, there is nothing journalists hate more than being told they cannot ask questions.

“I have the right to ask any question I want, but you have the right not to answer them,” I said in response.

Months later, the actual events that caused this argument seemed to fade into oblivion, but this idea remained in my mind. Did I indeed have the right to ask any question, or was my verbal opponent speaking a truth instead of speaking out of mere insecurity? After a time of deliberation, I came to my own conclusions.

I am not a proponent or a fan of nosy questions, and I have learned many verbal tricks to deflect them. I believe, however, that every person has the right to seek the truth, even if it means making someone uncomfortable.

I may not appreciate a question about how I attempt to manage weight, but while the question may lack tact, it does not lack a dignified liberty. If I was guaranteed to never be asked a question about my weight, furthermore, I could potentially see no issue in eating dessert morning, noon and night.

The truth sets a man free from his own vices, not only in confessing a wrong but also in driving a man to do what is right.

Truth is meant to be sought out – it is not always handed to us on a silver platter. This is why formal education exists.

Questions are encouraged in a special way in the Core at UD because they are marks of independent thinking. In fact, one could argue that nearly everything we learn is the result of individuals who asked questions at some point in time.

Questions are the foundation of science and philosophy, the inspiration for arts and literature, and the driving force of politics and history. Perhaps the Core could even be renamed, “The Core of the World’s Main Questions.”

This interview gave me a valuable learning experience that I could not have learned in class. As students pursuing a liberal arts education, we need to ask the hard questions, not only in class, but in our own lives.

As the semester continues at UD, we should not be afraid to discover the truth about our lives, our faith, our relationships and our surroundings. It all starts with asking a question.

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