I saw this quote in the context of a slide deck on engineering education (K-12) and it was presented as an "we're teaching them things they don't care to learn" sense.

"Our books are full of answers to questions no kid ever asks." --Svein Sjøberg

I see that another way as well. There are some books that blew my mind as a kid because they asked questions I had never asked, gave answers to questions that I had never thought or cared about before reading those books. Their answers made me ask more questions.

Learning how to ask questions is an important thing, and how you ask and how you learn is different in each discipline; last week I told Kevin I probably wasn't yet ready to play Jump Monk (which I'd chosen) on the piano "because I'm still just playing notes, I don't know how to ask questions about this." The gauge I'm using each week to see if I'm ready to study Jump Monk is "can I think of questions to ask about this piece other than 'what questions should I ask'?"

When something's too easy, you have no questions; when it's too hard, you can't ask questions. When you can learn from it, you're trying to articulate questions, and you know you are learning from it when you can ask them clearly. Books that ask (and answer) questions no kid - or maybe only the very rare kid - asks themselves can be books that expand your world.

I remember walking down the hallways of my middle school holding The Origin Of Species in front of my face, navigating solely by peripheral vision (I did this for a lot of books) because I couldn't put the it down, couldn't let the gorgeous spinning thread of thought go snap! and crumble back into itself until I had made expanding picture of the world something that would stay. I had to hold ideas in my mind solid enough to make them real. I couldn't do it by myself; my thoughts were still too tenuous. Walking my mind down Darwin's thought-path helped me carve them out. George Pólya gave me the words I needed to articulate my fumblings that had previously gone along the lines of "but how do you know things like the square of a right triangle's hypotenuse is the sum of the squares of the other sides? There must be more than just saying that it is." Lightman and Thomas showed me there were others in the universe who saw the beauty that I was discovering as I plunged through books by Feynman, Hawking, Newton, Euclid (the last two with great difficulty, and I still don't really understand them), and also things outside of science; Frankl, Gardner (both Howard and Martin), Goldberg, Trumbo... there were just worlds and worlds and worlds I didn't ask about because I didn't know that they existed. (There are still worlds that I'm just not aware of. )

It was - and is - like being a small kid at the table who wanted that thing! now! and was whimpering with the frustration of unarticulated expression until somebody said "Mel, would you like a cookie?" Yes! That's the thing I want! May I have a cookie, please?

Answering questions that have not yet been asked (but could be, maybe should be) can sometimes be a very, very good thing.