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The Boston Globe



Silent students shortchange themselves, and others

It’s mid-September, which means that if you’re in college or graduate school you better start speaking up in class, before it’s too late. Higher education is brutally expensive, and these days you can substitute some of its previously exclusive elements, like lectures, without leaving the magnificent electronic isolation of your own home. But one important thing you can’t do online is participate in conversations with flesh-and-blood human beings who form a genuine community of inquiry, which is one of the very best ways to learn.

Increasingly, the traditional university’s unique educational value is exemplified by the seminar or other discussion-based class, and what you’re paying for boils down to the admissions and hiring policies that put the other people in the room for you to engage. But to be a contributing member of such a fellowship of reason, and not an impediment to it, you need to ante up your share of useful thinking. Which means that you need to not only prepare well and listen, but also speak up.

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