The Problem

Three earlier EzineArticles introduce and discuss my analysis of the noise problem in modern libraries:

  1. (August 4, 2011) Library Standards Have Crumbled-Time To Reclaim Quiet introduces the problem and makes the call for a return to traditional quiet as the proper foundation of courtesy and concentration in true learning.
  2. (August 9, 2011) Library Noise Now The Golden Standard – New Values Corrupt Silence pins the blame for the problem of noisy libraries largely on the dominant cultural values of Western society that reject silence.
  3. (August 17, 2011) Modern Education Experts Profess Value Of Silence – Why Librarians Ignore locates the source of the noisy library problem in current pedagogies (i.e., teaching philosophies) that privilege speech, as documented by five, peer-reviewed expert sources in the field of education.

The present EzineArticle lists four additional, peer-reviewed, expert sources that further document troubling cultural forces in today’s educational system that are degrading the quality of these once-quiet public spaces.

The following paragraphs list citations of my latest sources, along with my interpretations of each source’s main points:

Huey-li Li (2001). Silences And Silencing Silences. THE PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION SOCIETY YEARBOOK 2001:157-165.

  • Educational discussions about silence seem to be erroneous and one-dimensional, treating the absence of talk as the consequence of a disciplinary act only.
  • In modern discussions about multi-cultural education, educators should re-think the simple dichotomy of silence versus speech and challenge the primacy of speech.
  • Technological advancements in modern industrial society are especially powerful lures that cause people of developed nations to avoid silence and to justify intolerance of silence.
  • Mass media and computer-mediated communication systems constantly erode and destroy silent spaces at the public level, thus making it nearly impossible for individuals to learn how to appreciate silence, either by themselves or in the presence of others.
  • Americans are a nation of “space pluggers” and “gap fillers”, both in education and in life, as we obsessively fill what we think are empty spaces and empty sound gaps with the perpetual flux of objects and decibels.
  • The idea of “cooperative learning” has become the dominant idea in mainstream teacher education.
  • When teachers, in classroom settings, use the idea of “participation” as a measure of student participation, they inevitably condition students in the belief that silent, active listening is not a legitimate form of “participating.”
  • Speech can be systematically distorted, consciously or unconsciously, to give some groups or individuals more importance than others.
  • “… the dichotomization of silence and speech misleads us to devalue silence and privilege speech…. I call for recognition of the need to dismantle this false dichotomy and to develop a pedagogical understanding of silences.” (p. 162)

Megan Boler (2001). The Challenge Of Interpreting Silence In Public Spaces. THE PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION SOCIETY YEARBOOK 2001:166-169.

  • Emphasizing speaking is a method of enforcing the “silencing of silence”, which perpetuates the false idea that talking automatically represents democratic participation.
  • Favoring speech ignores reflective practice.
  • Systematic education in the art of listening does not exist in elementary schools, in secondary schools, in higher learning, or in the public sphere.
  • Silence has deeply personal and spiritual aspects, regarded as evils in education and politics.
  • Educators need to be extremely cautious about emphasizing speech and de-emphasizing quiet.
  • By cultivating the practice of quiet mindfulness, teachers can greatly enhance the quality of interaction and the quality of thought that takes place in education.
  • In political and educational contexts, silence is automatically feared, “pathologized”, and assigned no currency, yet, ironically, we must speak of this problem in order to avoid it.

Cathleen Haskins (2010). Integrating Silence Practices Into The Classroom: The Value of Quiet. ENCOUNTER: EDUCATION FOR MEANING AND SOCIAL JUSTICE 23 (3):1-6.

  • The current disregard for silence in modern educational philosophy begins to take hold early in a child’s life, where the once slow, easy freedoms of childhood barely exist today.
  • In modern civilization, we live in a storm of noise that robs children of their abilities to know the beauty of silence.
  • Most children in today’s developed world know silence only as discipline or as punishment from controlling adults, and these children are further denied positive, quiet experiences by adults who have lost their own ways in a noisy world.
  • Today’s adolescents grow up with technological innovations that disable their desires to know fulfilling quiet and creative solitude.
  • Nonstop, incessant noise has become the norm that disconnects people of all ages from their inner resources.
  • Holistic education reform requires that teachers create learning environments that offer exercises in stillness and silence, where silence is NOT treated as the negative force of adult authority, but as the positive space of inner peace, creativity, and renewal.

Kathryn Byrnes (2011). Review of RETHINKING CLASSROOM PARTICIPATION: LISTENING TO SILENT VOICES By Katherine Schultz.. EDUCATION REVIEW, 14.

  • Relying on verbal participation to assess learning often rewards compliance (i.e. talking that the teacher expects) instead of thoughtfulness and comprehension.
  • Speech becomes more powerful and insightful through a norm of silence.
  • American schools traditionally do not value silence.
  • Talk does not necessarily equal learning.
  • Schools and communities need to return to a wise understanding of silence, inspired by the saying, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you speak.” (p. 4)

RECAP

I attribute the relatively recent problem of excessive noise in libraries to four main causes:

  1. Modern, Western civilization has always treated speech in primarily positive terms, while treating silence in primarily negative terms of authoritative control and punishment.
  2. Runaway developments in technology (e.g., computers and mobile communication devices) have enacted and enforced Western cultural values that privilege speech in epic proportions.
  3. Parallel developments in education have mirrored popular culture’s information-exchange mania, thus solidifying Western values that favor speech and fear silence.
  4. Seller/consumer relationships have surpassed student/teacher relationships in importance, as institutions struggle to survive in an economy that supports primarily goods and services “aimed to please.”

© 2011 Robert G. Kernodle