Asking is a sign of strength, not weakness. #DMUblackhistorymonth

Picture of barack Obama and text of remarks on fear of asking questions.

One of the messages that came through from the launch of Black History Month in the Campus Centre on Monday was that “Asking was a Sign of Strength”.

It is an important message to take hold of because, for most adults, it seems that the opposite must be true. As young children we did not have a fear of asking questions, but for many people that changes as we grow older. Something; self-consciousness, or a fear of just confirming other people’s stereotypes, gets in the way, inhibiting us from seeking help when we need it.

Some of the students present mentioned that they had arrived at DMU with that assumption, and had held on to it until they got the feedback from their first assignments. It was at that point that they had to look with honesty and humility at their current set of skills and see which ones needed a boost. Doing that alone can take real strength.

But, who to ask? You might turn to other students facing the same challenges, or to your tutors. If there is a Centre of Asking, though, I reckon it would be found within Library and Learning Services. The Library is stuffed full of people who are dedicated to answering questions: there are librarians on help desks throughout the main part of the day; a Maths Learning Centre with advice on hand and the CLaSS team offering workshops and tutorials on how to build up your writing and study skills.

Like the question “Where did that phrase come from? Who recently said ‘Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength’?”. Librarians have the skills to quickly filter the various information sources and point you to Barack Obama’s speech in 2009 using those very words. They might also throw in Michelle Obama’s additional comments that people should “Ask questions. Ask stupid questions. Don’t be afraid to trip, fall and don’t be afraid to get back up.”

After all, the only stupid questions are the ones that do not get asked.

Picture of barack Obama and text of remarks on fear of asking questions.

Obama, B. (8 September 2009) Barack Obama’s back-to-school speech: text. Daily Telegraph [online] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/6154114/Barack-Obamas-back-to-school-speech-text.html
Obama, M. (26 May 2011) Michelle Obama’s tips for growing up: don’t be afraid to fail. Daily Telegraph [online] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/michelle-obama/8536751/Michelle-Obamas-tips-for-growing-up-dont-be-afraid-to-fail.html

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Senior Assistant Librarian at De Montfort University. I am interested in digital preservation and the use of data to measure a library's impact. All comments own.