BLACK: Wildcat got your tongue?



Brigid Black

Picture this: You are sitting inside a classroom in Tolentine Hall. You’re in the middle of English class, which almost inevitably means that you’re about to have a group discussion. Your professor directs a simple question to the class and eagerly awaits hands shooting into the air and hearing everyone’s responses.

All that can be seen, however, are the students awkwardly staring at each other or off into space or at the floor. And all that can be heard is absolutely nothing – the sound of complete and utter silence.

This “Sound of Silence” is a fascinating phenomenon that exists in the classrooms of our liberal arts courses here at Villanova and is an all-too-common occurrence. Why are we so hesitant to speak up in the classroom setting? Why do we wait for another classmate to make that first move?

It’s not that we as Villanova students don’t know how to be vocal, for we are the same people who are able to scream at the top of our lungs at basketball games in the Pavilion and cheer on athletes at the Special Olympics Fall Festival. Thus some kind of explanation must be in order.

For the most part, it seems that we hold back because we are ultimately too scared to make some kind of mistake upon opening our mouths to speak. Often we are too terrified to say anything that might sound “stupid” in front of our peers.

But what exactly qualifies as “stupid” according to those peers around us? Maybe it is going against what the classroom majority thinks.

Or perhaps it is saying something unconventional that just so happens to go against the traditional. One might even say that speaking up is accompanied with the stigma of being labeled as a showoff or a teacher’s pet.

Whatever the case is, the fact that we allow our peers instead of ourselves to dictate what we as individuals should and should not share in class is incredibly detrimental to our overall learning experience. Furthermore, it is a pattern that reflects poorly on our campus culture here at Villanova.

Wanting to participate in class shouldn’t have to brand us as freaks, geeks or losers in the eyes of our fellow students. Parties and sporting events are undoubtedly a major part of college life – I love them just as much as any other student does – but I also love my English classes. Why should the desire to have fun and the willingness to learn be exclusive?

The answer: It shouldn’t be. Voicing our opinions and contributing ideas in our classes are the most basic ways of communication in the academic setting, so it makes little sense to inhibit such action. Open discussion and dialogue shouldn’t be dangerous territory, but rather enable us, honestly and confidently, to express our collective passion for the subjects we are studying. Speaking up is essentially a risk worth taking.

Villanova students need to jump on this bandwagon. At other schools, intellectual discourse and participation among peers is not only respected, but it’s also viewed as hip. When I hear my friends at Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges describe their frequently engaging classroom experiences, I won’t deny that I become a tiny bit jealous.

At a prestigious four-year university with a strong liberal arts college, we need to promote not only a culture of learning, but also one of wanting to learn.

Villanova must be an environment in which our peers do not scoff at us for speaking out but instead encourage us and appreciate what we have to say.

After all, we’re supposed to be a community of individuals living and growing together. How else will we truly benefit inside our classrooms if we don’t listen and learn from each other?

While I am certainly not saying that the Sound of Silence occurs in every classroom here at Villanova, it does, however, have a powerful presence. If we do not make an effort to change this situation, then the Sound of Silence will have a deafening effect.

Let yourself be heard, Villanova. Don’t shut up – speak up.


Brigid Black is a junior English and French major from Brooklyn, N.Y. She can be reached at [email protected]