Sunday, March 07, 2010


“Talk is fluid, tentative, continually “in further search and progress;” while written words remain fixed, become idols even to the writer … and preserve flies of obvious error in the amber of the truth.”
--Robert Louis Stevenson, “Talk and Talkers”

It’s too bad a Pulitzer Prize isn’t given for talking, because there’s something artistic and arresting about talking at its best. On most days in English class I see this phenomenon – the full and flowing creation of spoken words. The students and I talk from the moment we enter class – words leading to other words, words pushing each other into sentences, words roving out to the frontiers for fresh ideas.  As Stevenson suggests, there’s nothing stagnant or lackluster in spirited talk. When sincere students and their teacher start sharing thoughts, who knows where the words will run or what new borders they’ll cross. It’s a good kind of creation. Thousands of words are spoken in every English class, most of them filled full with the power of invention, most of them free and ready for fun. Of course, there’s also a kind of talk that’s artificial and fairly useless – merely the motoring of idle minds. Hopefully, that kind of chatter doesn’t happen often in my classes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want whimsy and far-out flights of fancy in our discussions. Talkers, by nature, are inventors, and inventors need the liberty to let loose.

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