On Forming Questions
When I was in the third grade my mother and/or the school system decided I was “Talented and Gifted.” This meant that a special teacher would come to my school and sit with me in a very small room—what looked like a converted broom closet—and have me fill out mimeographed worksheets. The worksheets asked me to make lists and to draw pictures based on instructions. I found some of these sheets in my mother’s garage recently, and the tasks I was asked to perform seem meaningless and potentially baffling for an eight year old. “List foods you would cook on the stove. List foods you would cook in the oven. Which foods would you keep in the refrigerator?” Perhaps there had been a mix-up. Maybe they thought I was a cooking savant. I wasn’t. My mother was a graduate student. We ate a lot of spaghetti, as far as I can remember. The special teacher once asked me to draw a picture of anything. Anything! I drew a cow that had a town of small people living in its stomach. She told me that I should have drawn something that made sense, something that could really exist. I told her I felt a little sick, like I was going to throw up. She wrinkled her nose at me and told me that it wasn’t polite to use the word “throw up.” What word was I supposed to use, I asked. She seemed exasperated by my question. (I wasn’t used to this. My mother was good at answering questions.) “Oh, I don’t know!” the special teacher said. “Vomit. Upchuck.” That made me want to throw up even more.
Does this answer the question?