In college, everyone had “that” professor – the one person who did more than most to introduce them to a new world view, shape their ideas, get them excited and inspired about education. I was lucky in that I had three: Dr. Louis H. Mackey, who taught me a little about Ethics, Dr. Michael Adams who tried to teach me Advanced Expository Writing (blame him – he’s the one who passed me) and Dr. Richard C. C. Kim who got me so excited about Political Science that I thought I should make it my major. Little did I know that what he taught me had more to do with philosophy than politics.
I took every class that Dr. Kim taught, sitting at his feet in my mind trying to absorb everything he said. I wasn’t Dr. Kim’s best student by far, but that didn’t stop me from eagerly anticipating each class in a vain attempt to will myself to be more like Dr. Kim. He was one of “those” professors – the one other students warned you not to take, but you knew better than to heed their warnings. With his offbeat teaching style and radical views, he was a far cry above the professors who merely wanted you to “read chapter 3 and answer the questions at the end of the section.” In fact, most of my core beliefs about politics and political philosophy come from this man and his out of print book “Kimbrations: Reflections of a Philistine”.
We students spent a lot of time in “Plato’s Cave” (a room filled with articles and books set aside by Dr. Kim to study politics and philosophy) looking for truths and looking for meaningful questions. To Dr. Kim, a meaningful question was not “how are you doing?” (He would argue that the person who asked had no actual interest in how you were actually doing, he just wanted to hear the word “fine” so he could shuffle down the hall and be done with the social obligation.) In fact, if you made the mistake and asked Dr. Kim how he was doing, he would tell you exactly how he was doing, which was always a bit startling because it was never “fine” or “well”. Dr. Kim’s example of a bad question would be, “what color is my underwear?” He would state (and I hope I’m doing this justice after 20 years) that because it was a very answerable question, it was not worthy of being asked. The kinds of questions he was looking for took some thought. Those were good questions; the kind that forced you to think.
What this all is leading to is my birthday and the present that I want from my friends/family. Since it’s a 0 birthday, I’m allowed to do something a little different. I want to ask my friends and family a few questions that they answer and give to me as a birthday present, but I’m stumbling because I can’t think of truly “good” questions. I want something beyond those e-mail chains of “What is your favorite color?” “What is your favorite movie?” or “What color is your underwear?” – while they are arguably interesting (depending on whose asking) they don’t really tell me much about you. I want to know you.
So, I’m asking you as my readers. What is a good question to you? (Seth? Tony? Lori? Pam?) – something Dr. Kim or the metaphoric blind man, Johnny Alameda, that Dr. Kim invoked in many a class, would see as good.