Go On, Ask!


“Those who ask, will be given” (1) but you better “ask those who know” (2). Although different in tone these two quotes from religious books both promote advice seeking as a virtue and a benefit. But as often with well-meant guidance it needs a reality check (even an advice as portrayed in the opening sentence). Such a reality check would reveal that the act of asking puts you in a dependent position, and rely on others for help. In education it normally would be allowed, although excessive use of asking behavior would count as submissive and not ‘self-regulated’ (3). In cases of a more equal distribution of power in relationships you will pay a tribute when asking or requesting for ‘help’, that is, you allow for dominance, and when not constrained, it will invite authoritarianism (3). It is that bad? May be. Truth is that in most cases people are hesitant to ask for advice, to request for assistance. Take, for instance, regular team meetings. Apart from the usual questioning or inquiring type of communication, really asking for advice and support is seldom done. It makes you vulnerable, almost incompetent in the eyes of your colleagues. Imagine: “I have a serious issue with…You really need to advise me on how to..; yeah, right…”).

Still, it can be done, according to a qualitative study on team interactions in a school community. Opening up for help and being aware of the cultural change to be made, the team decided to be permissive and supportive to each other’s requests for assistance. The study is a bit inexplicit about the team’s composition (age, gender, position matter in these cases), but discloses that agency in asking disrupted isolation, mediated change, and supported a concerted practice.

So, it has been done. What is the secret behind it? Max Weber, a sociologist, (4) was among the first to underline that permission seeking (and giving) is power related. It means that only within a jointly accepted set of rules and shared sense of perspective one may allow, or iteratively, exert control. Put simpler: circumstance brings you to open up for probing. In that respect the opening sentence and the advice given in them gets more texture.  Proof?;  Well, would you follow the title’s advice, not knowing circumstance?


Permission-seeking as an agentive tool for transgressive teaching: An ethnographic study of teachers organizing for curricular change by Kira J. Baker-Doyle& Leif Gustavson,  J Educ Change (2016) 17:51–84

DOI 10.1007/s10833-015-9251-7



  1. http://biblehub.com/matthew/7-7.htm
  2. https://www.al-islam.org/ask-those-who-know-muhammad-al-tijani-al-samawi/chapter-1-concerning-creator-most-sublime-and#second-question-justice-god-and-predestination
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201502/the-mind-the-authoritarian
  4. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/socsi/undergraduate/introsoc/weber11.html



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