Is it too quiet in here?
The WSB-TV story about the mother being arrested in the Decatur library allegedly because she wouldn’t quiet her noisy toddler made me think about noise in schools and libraries. (BTW, having used that library many times and seen the tolerance toward boisterous children, I have to believe the library’s account that the police were called because of the woman’s loudness rather than the child’s.)
First off, libraries in general are louder than they used to be. As a young child, I was a regular at the library near my house and it was a silent, somber place where I checked out my “Harriet the Spy” books and fled home to read them.
Today, libraries are filled with parents and toddlers and there are bean bag chairs and little tables that invite kids to get comfy. The child-friendly nooks and crannies also invite noise because where they are children, there is noise.
In fact, I also see many more adults who talk in normal tones rather than the whispers in libraries. I am always shushing my own kids in the library while everyone else is talking as if they were in the food court of the mall.
With the constant clatter in the background, is quiet assumed as a prerequisite for concentration and learning any more? And do we make a mistake insisting on quiet when today’s children have a louder soundtrack for their generation?
I have noticed that the volume is higher in private schools. I don’t mean parochial schools where order is still cherished but the pricey private schools where CEOs and surgeons in Atlanta enroll their kids. (Although today’s Catholic schools are far more informal than the ones I attended.)
There is more chatter in the halls; students speak up in class without raising their hands. The general classroom setting is more relaxed, more Socratic in design. Kids lounge in chairs rather than sit up in them. There is a greater sense today that classrooms are places of equals, and everyone can speak.
Many students do their homework amid noise. Recall that I reported here a few months ago that the triplets who were the top three graduates of a local school did their homework in front of the TV, according to their dad. And other parents went one better, saying their top students watched TV, texted, listened to their iPods simultaneously and still got into Yale.
So, are we now immune to noise? Are quiet classrooms considered dull? Should we seek dynamic classrooms with kids at one table debating immigration and students at another collaborating on a play? The constant battle to quiet children seems a losing one, given that the world tolerates a lot more noise in what used to be the quiet places, libraries, churches, pocket parks.