While radical free choice is not something kids get often during the school year, this question remains broad enough to encompass current events, history, statistics, sports, music, math, literature, poetry, speeches, politics, and economics, though maybe not deep space exploration. As a teacher, we could begin with 10 questions about the self and the world and see how many of the questions that students generate lean naturally toward answering this question. If a student has a passion otherwise, by all means, let that student be free to follow it. I just find that too much open choice leaves students grasping at straws. They want to please. They expect authority, and we won’t have a year together to build the deep bonds that lead to trust and self-revelation that we have during the school year. It takes months for students to trust me when I say, “Free write”. That’s partially the conditioning of school itself and partially human nature. You don’t usually open your heart to a group of strangers when you are 14 years old. Or, maybe I just don’t know enough 14 year olds. I will get to know them soon enough, though.
In twelve days, it is difficult to form the deep bonds that lead to trust and self-revealing writing; we can ask this question and explode it wide open. I’d love to see what kinds of questions students ask about a question. I have used the Right Question Protocol with Renee Ehle. It works well. You eliminate the closed questions. You make kids evaluate the importance of their own questioning. You model the asking of “good” questions. It’s not something most students know how to do intuitively. In three weeks, we could do a lot of work around shaping interesting writing from this primary question.