30 Day Question Challenge – Day 29 – The Jugular Question

In my opinion, this challenge captures the essence of where creative thought begins. Genuine questions drive thinking forward. Extraordinary questions inspire and often transform. I read that Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias once stated: “I went for the jugular question!” That’s what I want to see more regularly…a jugular question. It reminds me of shooting stars.


I once thought that seeing a shooting star was an exception; something that was rare. So, I thought I was lucky to see one – “make a wish!” This was my thinking until an astronomy professor challenged us to stay up all night and chart shooting stars. Equipped with nothing more than a high mountain top, a pen, a constellation chart, coffee and a blanket, I took the challenge. It was an average night, and I charted over 75 shooting stars. It was an eye opening experience. For the first time I considered the possibility that my previous idea that shooting stars were exceptions was wrong. Imagine what a night filled with an asteroid shower would look like?! This was transformative because I then asked: “What other of my beliefs are like that of shooting stars?” Had I held these beliefs because I had failed to look? In my experience the answer was “yes.” I began looking and life changed dramatically.

I see a jugular question as something that gets to the heart of the matter. It cannot be denied or ignored. It is so intense that it must be dealt with. It is significant.

Day 29 Question: How often do we ask jugular questions?

Moreover, how often to we teach students seek out jugular questions?

There is a good article by Vogt, Brown and Isaacs (2003) and entitled The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action. This link takes you to a free download. It’s a simple, but conceptually powerful, and I think inspirational article. One I can always go back to.

Waiting for the chance to see a shooting star is nice, and when you see one, it’s exciting. I want more, and I think students are capable of more.

We could go so far to say a jugular question is equivalent to death by questions. I’m sure we can all relate to the gatling gun spray of questions. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean a jugular question is one that kills old paradigms because it hits the heart-line of the issue. You feel it. What would class look like if it was organized around jugular questions? It makes me queasy.


If you have a jugular question…. let’s see it!

2 thoughts on “30 Day Question Challenge – Day 29 – The Jugular Question

  1. In education…the very thought of thinking education…we rarely if ever ask the jugular questions ourselves. Its too painful!!! It is therefor even more rare that students are ever invited to ask these kinds of questions. Hell….do students really get the chance to formulate their own questions within the confines of education???

    1. It’s interesting that a place that prides itself on intellectual work is remarkably closed and short-sighted at times. Seriously, I learned to ride a bike by trying to ride a bike, not just watching someone ride. Meta is concrete!

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