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Pique Curiosity

Clouds float in a deep blue sky over Mount Sneffles and Ridgway Reservoir from a vista in Ridgway State Park.
View from Ridgway State Park

I'm not sure who the gift was for more.

Last week, I flew my nephew out for 7 days of Colorado fun as a birthday present. During his visit, and in-between our many excursions -- including several days in the SW part of the state -- we binge watched two seasons of "Ted Lasso."

During one of the episodes, Lasso has a soliloquy about, "Be curious, not judgmental,' which if you were coincidentally curious about the quote, you would learn that it has been wrongly attributed to Walt Whitman.

After the episode, we talked about the content of his monologue; about when are we not curious when we should be, what happens sometimes when we make assumptions, and when we fall prey to our lazy tendencies of Thinking Fast?

We then talked about his high school and if he feels that he is being taught to be curious and a critical thinker. Or if he felt like it was more busy work and checking boxes on his scholastic journey.

You see, the importance of critical thinking was reintroduced to me during a recent video project for the Colorado State Library. I had the privilege of interviewing teacher librarians, principals, teachers and students across Colorado about the vital role of school libraries and the stewardship of certified teacher librarians.

A teacher librarian reads a story book to a pair of young students. A teacher librarian helps a high school student talk over a thesis statement and find sources for a paper.
Research has consistently shown positive correlations between high-quality library programs and student achievement.

I always thought curiosity was an inherent trait; it's something that you are born with. Others say it is a learned behavior. The research on the topic is all over the place. The consensus, however, is it is a skill that can be taught, it needs to be cultivated -- even in those with an intrinsic sense of it -- and it can disappear if not whetted regularly.

What I was informed in the many hours of interviews is curiosity and critical thinking can be groomed from a love of reading, from learning how to effectively research a topic, and from seasoning it with a healthy dose of skepticism. It is in the library where we can really help make people into curious innovators.

I always considered myself a critical thinker, forged from my many years spent as a journalist. But I began questioning that notion. Had I become lazy and less diligent? Was I making too many assumptions, in my personal and professional life? And what is the yard stick to accurately measure against?

Maybe uncertainty is my best answer to the question? By constantly questioning, by being introspective, by asking more and more questions -- of myself and of my clients, I can grow as a person and be of more service to those around me.

As a person whom I respect put it to me in a recent conversation, "There is only winning and growing." And I think you can only grow by constantly being curious and asking questions.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

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