A Conversation About Conversations

February 2, 2015 8:48 PM

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The regional rail station was the first stop on my 2-hour journey to Washington where I would deliver a talk on the art of conversation. Twelve people sat spaced on various benches, wrapped in warm winter garb that would shield them from the impending 2 feet of snow due to visit the Northeastern corridor of the U.S.. My rail station sits behind a little shopping village in a small town outside of Philadelphia --in a town that considers itself a tight knit neighborhood. But in this place on this day, 8 of the 12 present were fairly aloof -- looking down at their phones, engaging in no eye contact with one another, with no words to fill the silence. No one even kvetched about the weather.

I gave the speech I was about to deliver the somewhat provocative title, "Talk Back" to demonstrate, in a punnish kind of way, that talking back and forth is a basic human trait that is critical if we are to help children develop a strong foundation for literacy and formal schooling. Language is cen...

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