Over the past few decades, our schools’ emphasis on quick results and feedback has left students with little room for absorbing complex material or taking risks with their own work. Several trends, not confined to education, have contributed to the problem: an insistence on concrete, measurable goals; a narrow view of student “engagement”; an emphasis on talk over quiet thought; and a push for teacher evaluation systems that focus on test score results and quick classroom observations. These tendencies, although based on good intentions, have contributed to an environment that discourages (and sometimes even penalizes) challenging study and independent thought. To address this problem, schools should honor those aspects of education that require solitude (as well as community) and grow in meaning over time.
Diana Senechal teaches philosophy at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. She is the 2011 recipient of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture and the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture. Her translations of the Lithuanian poetry of Tomas Venclova have been published in two books, Winter Dialogue and The Junction, as well as numerous literary journals. Her education writing has appeared in Education Week, The New Republic, Educational Leadership, American Educational History Journal, The Core Knowledge Blog, Joanne Jacobs, GothamSchools, and The Washington Post’s blog The Answer Sheet. She lives in Brooklyn.
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In 2013-2014, the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere at the University of Florida has organized a nine-month speaker series that seeks to understand the dialogues (or lack thereof) about major issues that have gained political traction in the United States. These issues are as basic as the future of our planet, the price of minority discrimination, and how we construct and remember our collective history. This speaker series has two parts. The first semester will examine the fault lines that divide us, and the conditions that prevent reasoned dialogue. The second semester will generate discussions of how we might foster conditions that will bring us closer together, or at least help us to enter into broader dialogue about the human condition. This semester on “healing” these fractures will explore the future impact of digitization on the written word, the importance of solitude to personal transformation, and how academic scholars can productively frame controversial research topics.
This series of six lectures is co-sponsored by the Rothman Endowment at the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with co-sponsorship from the UF Libraries, Honors Program, Department of History, Department of English,Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Hyatt and Cici Brown Endowment for Florida Archaeology, Office of Research and the Office of Sustainability.
For an overview of the Civil Society Speakers series, click here.
Past lectures can be viewed online here.
Center for the Humanities
and the Public Sphere
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
200 Walker Hall
P.O. Box 118030
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611