Yesterday I took part in a study at a Toronto hospital. Part of the intake procedure involved completing a questionnaire for the Ministry of Health.
There were eight questions in total, most of the multiple choice variety. For all questions one choice of answer was “prefer not to answer” and one was “do not know”. What incenses me with this answer relates to the nature of the questions. First question asks what language would you feel most comfortable using when speaking with a health-care provider. There were 34 choices ranging from Amharic to Vietnamese, plus “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. How the hell can you not know what language you are comfortable speaking?
Next: Were you born in Canada? “Yes”, “No”, “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. I have a problem with that as well. How can you not know where you were born – not the city necessarily, but what country are you from??
There were two questions dealing with income – how much do you earn in a year? with six income brackets to choose from along with “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. The second question was the number of people supported by that annual income. For this one, you had to fill in a number, not answer or say you don’t know. You don’t know how many people your money supports? C’mon now. At a minimum, the numerical answer is one – yourself.
There were also two questions dealing with gender identity and sexual preferences. Okay, I’ll give you these two. Depending upon the age of the respondent, they may not honestly know what gender they believe themselves to be. It may not be the one assigned at birth. As for sexual preference, same thing applies. The respondent may be uncertain.
The other six questions though, deal with concrete facts – the language you speak and where you were born for example, so how on earth can you answer those six with “do not know”?
Am I the only one who finds the choice of “do not know” frustrating when offered as an alternative answer to a question asking for definite facts? And no, “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer.