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Is Today’s Society Teaching Us To "Talk Less, Smile More"?

In this article, I question if we are teaching young people to talk less.

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"Talk Less, Smile more. Don't let them know what you're against or what you're for" ~ Hamilton

I am studying teaching at the University of Adelaide and as a part of my studies, I am taking a philosophy course where we explore freedom. In addition to this, I have also recently become somewhat obsessed with the new musical, Hamilton, which if you are living under a rock, explores the life of one of America's founding father Alexander Hamilton as he fights for his beliefs and freedom. Within the musical Aaron Burr, Hamilton's frienemy, advises Alexander to “talk less,(and) smile more” suggesting that giving too much information to your opposition can be problematic. Not to give any spoilers away, but that doesn’t end well for either party.'

This quote, however, has prompted me to question today’s society and the idea’s of freedom. Now, of course, we don’t exercise complete freedom, at least not here in Australia, and the degree of freedom greatly varies from country to country, and in many, cases state to state. But if we were to take society as a whole, I wonder if we are teaching young people to “talk less, and smile more?”,

I think back to schooling, in my school we are told to sit in a room silent as we can possibly manage and listen to the teacher drone on and on about things and we were told to accept what we were being taught, a sort of reproductive pedagogy system seemed to prevail. I even remember questioning (many) teachers about why things happened and how they apply to the real world. Many teachers didn’t answer me or didn’t answer sufficiently enough, but still, I would question and voice my opinion and “run-a-muck” as one teacher stated. I often found my behavior marks lacking high grades, despite my straight A grades for school work. Teachers would write, “Zoe is a talkative person and often disrupts the class”. Such comments came from teachers who I challenged in regards to the course information thus threatening their dominance within the classroom.

School taught me to sit down and shut up, to “talk less, smile more” and accept the world the way it is. Don’t question unless you want to have bad behavior marks, don’t talk, your voice doesn’t matter.

I was lucky enough to have two parents who taught me to ask questions. This perhaps shaped me into the debater I am today and may very well be the reason I wrote this article. I don’t accept things the way they are just "because!" I believe in fighting for things we believe in. I believe my voice matters. I believe my writing matters.

Although I was lucky to be taught to “talk more and smile if you want”, (unless my mum is taking a photo, in which case its “stop pulling a face and just smile for the damn picture”), I fear the mass majority of Millennials are being silenced today because our views and opinions “don’t matter”. Perhaps social media has made older generations value our opinions less, but I don’t accept this. These platforms are here for us young people, and for older people as well, to voice our opinions, and fight for what we believe to be right!

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