The initial answer to this question is obviously so that students can hear their teacher and fellow students during teaching and discussion and so that students can concentrate while working. I agree that students need to be quiet and orderly during those times so that everyone has an opportunity to learn. What about when they line up? What about when they walk through the hallways if there are not other classes nearby to disturb? What about at lunch time?
I have questioned this when teachers leave first graders waiting and standing in line until everyone is quiet, which actually seems to make it more difficult for the students to be quiet the longer they stand there. I have questioned this as I am expected to keep students quiet as I lead them through the first floor of a school at a time when all of the classes on that floor are headed to lunch or recess. I have questioned this when I see a stop light for noise level in the lunch room (located a fair distance from classrooms) which is there to warn students when they are becoming too loud. A friend recently told me that at her daughter’s school a new principal is now not allowing the students to talk at all during lunch and has discontinued the movies that used to be shown in the lunch room on Fridays.
Maybe as I continue to work in school I will come to understand logical reasons for these choices. Right now, I am of the opinion that we need to be fair judges of each situation and not just assume we are doing a fabulous job because we have a roomful or hallway full or lunchroom full of quiet children. Of course, I do not want bedlam, but these are children – social beings – just like the rest of us. I certainly would not want to have to eat silently when lunching with my friends!