Active Thinking Topic 51 -  You Can't Ask That !

Saturday 18 February 2022, 1:30 to 3:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: 44 Waymouth St, Adelaide CBD, South Australia

Talking Points

1. Does the premise make sense?: "You can't ask that !" => When & where is that true?

2. What is a question you wouldn't ask most people? Why?

3. There is an ABC series called "You Can't Ask That!"  (free ABC login). Watch an episode or two. Who would you like to put on this show? What would you ask them?

4. Depending on who you are talking to and the culture, in normal social interaction some questions are taboo. Why do all cultures develop taboos like this?

5. If you are not Anglo-Australian, what are some examples of taboo questions in your home culture?

6. What are some usually taboo questions in mainstream Australian culture? Keep in mind gender, locale and social situation.

7. Politicians specializing in giving "non-answers" to hard questions. Think of a few hard questions for a politician, then give "non-answers" to the questions. How do you recognize "non-answers"?

8. On the Internet there is some answer to almost everything. The hard part (which most people can't do) is asking good questions. New knowledge comes from questions, not old answers. How would you design an exam that tested student ability to ask insightful questions about their field of study? Give an example.

9. Some questions (the most interesting ones) force you to ask a series of other questions before you can hope to answer the first question. This is typical, for example, in research. [e.g. My own research area was cognitive linguistics. The hardest starting question in that is "How does the human brain make language?" => What are some question layers that first question might give rise to?]

10. Pick a random topic then ask 5 insightful questions about it. Was this hard or easy? What would be a better question than the ones you asked?


Extra Resources

Freeview (current) "You Can't Ask That" - Freeview episodes at 

Wikipedia (2016 to current) "You Can't Ask That" [the ABC TV series] @  [Quote: "You Can't Ask That is an Australian TV series created by ABC Television that first went to air in August 2016. As of June 2022 its seventh season is on air in Australia. .. The show aims to offer insight into the lives of marginalised communities and break down stereotypes while answering the questions people are afraid to ask,[4] reportedly inspired by Ask Me Anything (AMA) threads on Reddit. Each episode asks controversial questions sourced from the public to a minority Australian population.]

Tim Ferriss, Warren Berger, Hope Jahren, (18 September 2020) "The art of asking the right questions" @ Youtube @  [10 minutes]

Dan Shapiro (21 Oct 2022) "The head of Harvard’s International Negotiation program shares 3 keys to a better argument". Youtube @  [5 minutes]

Thor May (2015) "Understanding Active Thinking". @ [PDF] OR  [Quote: "The point at which we use “thinking” as a term worth mentioning beyond the normal background buzz of daily life is quite arbitrary. In principle, you can “think actively” about going down the street to buy an ice cream, and that might be closer to a normal usage of “thinking” than solving quadratic equations. This particular essay has paid more attention to situations which require a somewhat sophisticated level of attention, persistence and ingenuity in a world where complex problems are constantly arising".]

Scotts College (October 14, 2021) "3 Taboo Topics to Avoid in Australia". Scotts College @  [Thor, comment: Scotts College is probably Australia's most famous (expensive) private school. Most of the students reputably see themselves as upper class and 'better' than ordinary people. Here, senior high school students are advised to avoid Politics, Sex and Religion as topics of conversation because they are controversial. Is this a good idea?]

Murray Paddick (2019) "The little book of Aussie Etiquette". Quora @  [Thor, comment: this is one of the responses to a Quora question about Australian taboos, and a good example of the Australian habit of reducing social over-correctness to humorous ridicule. Examples:
"1. Never take an open stubby to a job interview...
2. Always identify people in your paddocks before shooting at them.
3. It's tacky to take an Esky to church.
4. If you have to vacuum the bed, it's time to change the sheets.
5. Even if you're certain you're included in the will, it's rude to take your ute and trailer to the funeral." ]


You Can't Ask That ! (c) Thor May 2023

return to Ddiscussion