What does a silence mean?
It can mean that there is nothing to say. Or it can mean that there is nothing that you want to say. Or it can mean that not saying something is a good thing, a positive decision to make.
There is a phenomenon called decision fatigue, which means that our ability to make decisions diminishes each time we make one. It is something that parents of young children are acutely aware of. After having answered a thousand questions about whether they can have this, why they shouldn’t swallow that it is easy to become so befuddled so that one can’t tell right from wrong, or up from down. Barack Obama is rumoured to have a limited wardrobe for this reason; you don’t want the leader of the free(ish) world bungling the peace summit because he mentally exhausted himself choosing a tie that morning.
For this ‘mental bandwidth’ issue, it is easy to argue for silence as a welcome punctuation point amidst the chatter and chunter of modern life. Perhaps then, we should have the confidence to introduce it into the classroom. However, would students accept it if you announced that – for their own good – teaching time is going to be taken up with some high quality quietness? Students might – reasonably – think that that was something that they could do at home, and not pay for the privilege.
Also, is it always the case that a thought improves with age? In my experience, the act of speaking an opinion aloud is often enough to reveal its ridiculousness, and that’s before other people have had the opportunity to shoot it down in flames. If I spend more time alone with my thoughts will they ferment or fester?
Perhaps I am looking at this from the wrong angle. After all, it may be the best time to be alone in my thoughts is when something else is speaking. That, however, is a tale for another day.