Questions explaining a subject in simple terms

The title may be a bit ambiguous, but I recently came across the following questions:

How to explain the E.U. to a 5 year-old

How to explain the importance of European Parliament elections to a regular folk living in Eastern Europe?

Can somebody explain Brexit in a few child-proof sentences?

Those questions seek answers about a broad concept (the EU , its elections and Brexit, respectively) in a way that requires little or no prior knowledge on the subject.

How I see it

On the one hand I think these questions can be broad. On the other hand I think these provide a good opportunity to spread knowledge on important subjects.

Subject for discussion

I think we should consider if we want to encourage this type of question. For example, an idea might be to create a new tag so questions of this type are easy to find.

Similar situation on other SE sites

A similar situation exists on the mathematics stack exchange. The 'soft-question' tag over there is aimed at

questions whose answers can't be objectively evaluated as correct or incorrect, but which are still relevant to this site.

That tag seems do rather well and a collection of questions explaining concepts (e.g. sovereignty), organisations (e.g. the EU) and events (e.g. Brexit) in simple terms might be successful here as well.

Please share your view by writing an answer below, this after all a .

  • I think these questions are probably good for the site, and possibly political participation in general, so long as they don't take over. Maybe a [summary-request] tag, since it's looking for a high level summary/simplification? – Bobson Mar 25 at 0:07
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    @Bobson that seems like an answer. If you post it as an answer we can vote on it and after some up votes I think we can implement it. :) – JJJ Mar 25 at 6:22
  • 99.99% of the question on poli.SE qualify as "soft-question" by math.SE standards. ELI5 is a different issue. (But I don't have strong opinion about the latter.) – Fizz Mar 25 at 8:30
  • Whatever the solution I think that those title might need some editing to something more "neutral" than the "5 years old" joke. – Walfrat Mar 25 at 14:42
  • @JJJ - I was trying to figure out if I could actually make a case for them other than "I think they work", but I couldn't really. So I put the answer in. – Bobson Mar 25 at 16:33
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    @Bobson time will tell, but I think they easily turn out nice because prior research (by the asker) is less important and if there's only a bad answer it can easily be improved by someone adding a good answer (which isn't the case with some more specific or technical questions). – JJJ Mar 25 at 16:36

In my opinion, these questions are probably good for the site, so long as they don't take over.

They serve the purpose of answering questions on politics (which is not the same as answering political questions!). In turn, that may make people more engaged with their political system, which is always a good thing.

I'd propose the tag for these, since they're looking for a high level overview.


Yes, I think these questions do have a place.

The primary mission of this website is to explain politics and political concepts to the interested reader. So explaining complicated concepts to a layman audience is a worthwhile effort.

However, I do not see a connection to "soft questions". The question "Explain [thing] in simple terms" is just as hard or soft as the question "Explain [thing]". The information content of the answers should be the same. The difference is in how that content should be communicated.

  • I mentioned the [soft-questions] because it's a successful meta-like tag rather than one that describes the actual subject of a question. That being said, do you think there should be a dedicated tag? For example @Bobson's [summary-request] tag suggestion would do. – JJJ Mar 25 at 16:24

I don't think the three linked questions can be put into the same category.

  • Concerning "How to explain the E.U. to a 5 year-old" and "Can somebody explain the brexit thing in one or two child-proof sentences?":

I think such questions should be closed primarily because the asker doesn't seem to put any effort into research prior to asking them.

Parents seeking for a summary of a political event/organisation can google it at the very least. They have to understand the event/organisation themselves to explain it to their children. Getting 2-3 sentences read aloud off a website won't stop children asking further questions. Strangers on the internet can't tailor their answers to the development level of the asker's children.

Maybe such questions would be better off on Parenting.SE to discuss the relevance of political events for young children and the best ways to explain them.

  • Concerning "How to explain the importance of European Parliament elections to a regular folk living in Eastern Europe?":

This question is on topic here because it's about relevance of an event for a particular group instead of its basic summary and requires some form of analysis or political insight to answer (as opposed to a basic google search).

  • This is a pretty reasonable counter-argument. I think that it'll work out if we treat "for X child" as just a general "just the basics" request, without actually literally meaning for a specific child/age. But if they start being problematically unresearched (e.g. "Explain the Constitution to a 5 year-old"), we can revisit. – Bobson Mar 27 at 0:56

No, I don't think there is merit in this type of questions.

Neutral answers usually have "on one hand, […].On the other hand, […]." Those nuances will be lacking in this type of answers. I expect we will end up with the partisan talking points as answers.

Those simplified questions will end up as a popularity contest between two simplified answers repeating the partisan talking points. Nothing good will come from this.

See e.g. the EU question linked. The top answers are straight from the EU-fan site. The one answer mentioning drawbacks of the EU is downvoted to below zero.

We have enough troubles keeping the "Promoting a POV" type of answers under control. We don't need another excuse to start those questions, or dispute their closing on Meta.

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    Why do you think these questions specifically would encourage partisan answers? In highly volatile topics like Trump or Brexit there is always that risk (though it seems to be well moderated) but what about more neutral (or plain boring) topics? Ask Dutch people to explain the 'waterschapsverkiezingen' and even though those were held only a few days ago, many people won't be able to explain them. Of course there are tons of such seemingly uninteresting topics that could do with an introductory explanation. – JJJ Mar 25 at 22:50
  • @JJJ Because 99% of the questions will be on highly volatile topics. We have enough troubles keeping "Promoting a POV" questions under control - we don't need another excuse to generate even more of those. – Sjoerd Mar 25 at 23:02
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    What are you basing that on? In the past 90 days, 248 questions (34.49% of total) were closed. Of those closed, only 12.1% (or 30 in absolute terms) was closed for bad-faith effort. (basing myself on mod tools, 2k+ only) – JJJ Mar 25 at 23:13
  • @JJJ Those are the closed ones. There are several more that should be closed IMHO, e.g. the one on Kissinger. And witness the problems around "Is Trump a Racist?" - do we want "How to explain to a 5 year old that Trump is a racist?" as well? – Sjoerd Mar 25 at 23:17
  • I don't think 'Trump's being racist or not' qualifies as a concept, organisation or event as explained in my question. That being said, such a question would get closed for the same reason. Indeed, many other questions of the 'summary' sort can still be answered objectively and the tag should be aimed at such questions. Questions that are otherwise off-topic will not be magically made on-topic because of this proposed tag. – JJJ Mar 25 at 23:23
  • @JJJ But there will be more rule-lawyering to get them accepted. Anyway, I can't convince you, you can't convince me. But in the end, IMHO there should be at least one answer for this Meta post stating "No." I'm fine if somebody else posts a different "no" answer, but until then my answer will stand. – Sjoerd Mar 25 at 23:26
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    I'm confused about the "The one answer mentioning drawbacks of the EU is downvoted to below zero." both the -ve answers on the Explain EU to 5 year old have other reasons to be down voted, one relies mainly on a US analogy and the other is so vague as to be meaningless. – Jontia Mar 26 at 17:12

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