Opinion: The loss of solitude in schools

In education discussions, we hear about the need for more concrete standards, or for less testing, or for more testing, or for richer curriculum, or for better facilities, or for more attention to students’ individual needs, says Diana Senechal, the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities and curriculum advisor and teacher at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City, for the Washington Post. My book, Republic of Noise, discusses a problem related to all of these: the loss of solitude. Education is in large part solitary; it involves a meeting of mind and subject. Our schools emphasize a great deal of activity and group work but not the intense, focused, playful, independent work of the mind. By solitude I do not mean simply physical removal from others, but rather the aloneness that we carry and can shape in various ways. One can be solitary in a class discussion: that is, one can speak out when one has something to say, and listen for the rest of the time…

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