Do Students Know How to Have a Conversation?

image by Paul Martin Lester
Image by Paul Martin Lester

A recent article, My Students Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation, by The Atlantic raises an interesting topic that seldom gets talked about. With the push for 1:1 in schools and with 98% of adults ages 18-29 owning a cell phone, most young people have lost the art of having a conversation.

Paul Barnwell, who teaches English at a high school in Louisville, KY noticed that his students were struggling with even simple face to face conversations. “Conversational competence might be the single-most overlooked skill we fail to teach students,” he said. “Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and one another through screens—but rarely do they have an opportunity to truly hone their interpersonal communication skills.”

In the article he goes on to wonder, “what if we focused on sharpening students’ ability to move back and forth between the digital and real world?” he asks. “The next time you interact with a teenager, try to have a conversation with him or her about a challenging topic. Ask him to explain his views. Push her to go further in her answers.”

Have you seen a deterioration of student conversation skills? How can we address this issue? Is this even an issue or just the way of the future? Let us know what you see in your K-12, public or college libraries!