edUcation, conversation, and listening

Paul Fairfield
At the most fundamental level of analysis one may speak of educating as the act of someone saying and showing something to another in a way that leads the mind from where it is to where it might be, in the process widening horizons and fashioning habits of thought that make it possible for students to participate in the conversation that is their culture. The student stands to this conversation not only as learner but as initiate. Students appropriate habits, ideas, and questions that have
more » ... origin in the world of the ancients while the overriding imperative of the learning process is to take the conversation further in some respect and to find their voice within it. In what sense, however, is conversation the heart and soul of education, and what is the nature and role of listening in education so conceived? At a time when qualitative matters place a distant second to quantifiables such as test scores, information retention, and marketable credentials, it falls to education theorists to remind us of what philosophers since ancient times have in one fashion or another maintained: that this practice has an identifiable orientation and purpose that transcends the order of the utilitarian.