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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: Curiosity Did Not Kill The Cat

What does "curiosity" mean, exactly? Most definitions center around the desire to know something. So is curiosity just the act of asking lots of questions, or is it something deeper? In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss curiosity, wonderment, and if any question is ever a silly one.

What do we know already (or think we know) about curiosity? It "killed the cat," right - implying that too much inquisitiveness about something is dangerous. Curious George stories are a more playful take on learing and exploration.

Ed defines curiosity as the "mindful act of thinking beyond whatever it is that is in front of a person.... What comes next? What led to this? Where do I go from here? It really comes down to the art of creating questions."

But Ed puts a slight twist on that definition. He does not actually believe those questions ever have to be asked out loud.

"Curiosity is an internal thing," Ed believes. "I talk about the art of creating questions. You don't have to ask them to be curious. But just to be thinking about 'why is the person doing it that way? Why does that look the way it looks? Why did the person say that and not something else? What did the person not say?' Just having those thoughts and those questions in your own head generate the internal curiosity."

Ed's definition may make it sound as if we are either born with that internal instinct to create questions or we are not. Are we stuck with the level of curiosity we have at day one or can curiosity be taught?

Ed says curiosity can absolutely be taught and amplified by encouraging that internal development of questions. Listen to the full episode to hear how Ed believes curiosity can be taught and nurtured (he has specific examples from his classroom). It is also time to get into gear for a new puzzler!

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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