by I.M. Knott-Tawkin
In financially beleaguered and politically polarized times, saying less can be more. Now there is a degree program that will show one’s mastery of this vital skill.
The American Institute of Silence Studies (SHHH) whispered today that it plans to offer a bachelor’s, master’s and certificate of silence beginning this Fall. Applications may be entered at www.SilentStudies.com.
“In the 22nd century, it is possible that neither words nor money nor armaments will heal the ills of our world,” institute director Ella Quint predicted. “The ability to sit in silence and imagine what is going on in someone’s mind clear across the world may ultimately determine our ability to survive.”
“Today’s students are tired of talking,” added Sam H. Utup, a consultant with the Never-Heard-of-It Consortium of North America and Canada (NICNAC), which worked with SHHH on program design. “Just witness their texting habits. We have decided to take this passion for silence to a whole new level.”
And it’s not just what students want. Tomorrow’s employers will value silence as more than golden in the marketplace.
You could have heard a pin drop as institute trustees, now called hushees, gathered to reflect upon their plan. “Ultimately, we will offer specializations in stubborn silence, passive silence and affirming silence,” offered Ashton Person, hushee. “We will start small and then grow. Before long, we expect that the silence will be deafening.”
To that end, tuition will be on a sliding scale from a whisper to a shout. This is a first for an institute of this kind. “Although we do expect great employer demand for our graduates, we are mindful of the times in which we live,” Person added. “Students will pay what they can – but then they had better say nothing else about it.”
Staffing has not yet begun, but the institute is leaning toward a contingent faculty “because they know how to keep quiet,” Utup pointed out. “We prefer our faculty to teach by example.”
The annual Barbaric Yawp award, with a nod to Walt Whitman, will be given to the teacher who can stay quiet the longest. In fact, the only criterion for degree completion will be how long one can refrain from speaking. Four years = baccalaureate. Six years = master’s. One weekend = certificate.
An award of an undisclosed sum will be given to an incoming student for the “I Am Nobody” essay. It will outline the student’s history of silence and how she or he intends to pursue it in a formal course of study. The award is named in recognition of an American poet who never read aloud in a public forum, Emily Dickinson.
Differentiating themselves from contemplative religious orders, Quint, Utup and Person stressed that the program is open to people of all faiths and none. A special arrangement with the International Consortium of Mental Telepathy (EUREKA!) will make international study an option.
Sign language will be discouraged. Students and faculty, however, will be encouraged to cry, laugh, smile, frown and sigh as much as they want – the most therapeutic, and universal, expressions in difficult economic times.
“Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt” will be the program motto.
As well as golden, silence will be green. Predicting the results of studies under way at Questionable Research Institute (QRI), someone will soon find that both ozone depletion and global warming may be directly influenced by hot air emanating from speakers’ mouths.
As the world grows quieter, many environmental issues will be addressed.