Laura Leaney's Reviews > Republic of Noise: The Loss Of Solitude in Schools and Culture

Republic of Noise by Diana Senechal
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May 28, 2012

really liked it

This book made for pleasurable reading, as Senechal's sensibilities about culture and literature align closely with my own. It's not just about America's cultural dependence on technology as the source of learning and intellectual pleasure; I think the central point is that we no longer value being alone. And "aloneness" is the place, state of mind, or feeling we need to solve deep, complex problems, experience the nuances and beauty of poetry and fiction, engage with history and philosophers. She quotes David Ulin: "today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know."

Because many people "have a weakened capacity for being alone" (in perpetual connection with the world via the internet, the iphone, ipad, et cetera), superficial knowledge is the order of the day. Anything we need to know can be texted and tweeted. Thus, depth, insight, and the lovely joys of self-discovery have vanished. We no longer grapple with understanding Euripedes or Kant by ourselves. We can get the summaries on Wikipedia - and while we're on-line, we can check Facebook and maybe post a cool quote by Gogol that we found on the internet - without having to read the story it came from.

Senechal gives a quick review of some of the ways public schools foster this busyness, and it's depressing. Group work takes a rather hard hit. Yet, she's absolutely right about one thing: teachers KNOW that group work doesn't foster deep learning, but they're paranoid about an administrator popping his or her head in the door to check for productivity, hands-in-the-air participation, and measurable results. You're sure as hell not going to see that when kids are sitting at their desks thinking. This book argues that some of the most "important things in life cannot be seen or measured."

All in all, I found this book inspiring - and although I rarely watch television and I can't update the Facebook account I don't have - I'm far too involved with email and on-line activity. I can't remember what it felt like not to be connected (although Senechal is not advocating the elimination of technology). I even wonder what it would be like to get rid of my voicemail. Will it be relief? This is an interesting thought - one that I'm intrigued to explore.



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Reading Progress

May 28, 2012 – Shelved
July 3, 2012 – Started Reading
July 3, 2012 –
page 37
14.07%
July 4, 2012 –
page 89
33.84% "This book speaks articulates what is important to me, so I know I'm going to rate it pretty highly. Senechal is a thoughtful writer."
July 6, 2012 –
page 140
53.23%
July 9, 2012 –
page 212
80.61%
July 12, 2012 – Finished Reading

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