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In their lively and entertaining weekly discussion of issues related to higher education, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore the topics of higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. Ed and Jennifer practice what they preach, too, by introducing math puzzlers and brain teasers to keep listeners on their toes.

Higher Ed: Developing 'Intellectual Bravado,' A.k.a. The Courage To Ask Any Question

Ever feel like you want to ask a question, but you hold back because you think the question is stupid or you will look silly asking it? In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Staytondiscuss getting past those barriers that keep us from asking what's on our mind.

We have all been there: a question pops into out head, but then so does the self-doubt. We fear that others will find the question stupid or elementary, and we will look foolish if we ask it. So we clam up and fervently hope that someone else will pipe up with the same query.

How can we get past that feeling that our questions are dumb?

Ed says all of us could stand to develop a little "intellectual bravado" when it comes to learning and asking questions.

What's "intellectual bravado?"

"Intellectual bravado means that you're brave enough to explore the outer limits of your own thinking or other people's thinking," says Ed, " and you are not afraid to go beyond and to maybe be in a place that's a little bit uncomfortable or a little bit awkward or that's new."

Ed says one way to get braver asking questions is to understand that questions do not need to be exceedingly sophisticated or complicated. Sometimes, he says, simple questions are the most profound.

"If we were brave enough to actually ask what seems like a foundational or fundamental question," Ed asserts, "we actually will go deeper even though it might sound silly at first."

Ed says a tremendous payoff results from investing more in a presentation, activity or conversation by asking questions.

"We get more out of life's experience when we actually know we're going to a - create a question; and b - actually going to ask it," says Ed.

What event in Ed's life freed him to feel like he could ask questions without fear? Listen to the full episode to find out, and to hear this week's unusual take on a puzzler. It may prompt some questions in you!

This episode was recorded on Dec. 4, 2018.

For all of the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

Jennifer Stayton is the local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @jenstayton.
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