Sunday, January 1, 2012

Slow Food. For Thought

"In her new book, “The Republic of Noise,” New York City public school educator and curriculum advisor Diana Senechal argues that one reason for this problem [academic failure] is the students’ loss of solitude: the ability to think and reflect independently on a given topic. Schools have become more concerned with the business of keeping students busy in what Senechal deems is a flawed attempt to ensure student engagement. But as a result, students are not given the time and space to devote themselves completely to the study and understanding of one specific thing. It’s a need she finds reflected in our culture as a whole: We are a nation glued to smartphones and computer screens, checking email and Twitter feeds in our need to stay in some loop by reading and responding to rolling updates. [...]
    Solitude is not about being in a hut out in the woods or being out in the desert or living without other people around. I define solitude as a certain apartness that we always have, whether we’re among others or not. It is something that can be practiced — maybe to think just on one’s own, even when in a meeting or in a group and so forth — but that also has been nurtured by time alone. So there’s an ongoing solitude that’s always there, and there’s also a shaped or practiced solitude, which requires both time alone with things, to be thinking about things and working on things, and time among others when you nonetheless think independently. [...]
     'What I see is people having great difficulty sitting with a book for a long time, or with a pad of paper,' [says Ms. Senechal]. 'They want to have the stimulus right nearby – they want access to their email, they want access to their text messages no matter what they’re doing. You see people walking down the street with their phones and just staring at their phones; and you see people holding their phones in all situations – at a concert or when having dinner with a friend – so they can check that they don’t miss anything. Yes, there is a loss of ability to just sit with something.'"
— Alice Karekezi, Salon

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