"The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence."


Visited another blog earlier, whose most recent post was a particular inspiration for this one. I couldn't find a way to post this in their comments section, so here you go, reader. (Come to think of it, better figure my comments section access as well, hadn't I?)

Using your voice to bring life to a text is the point of voice acting, I won't argue that. Without emotion, love scenes fall flat, action scenes lose their punch, and side effects to rash medication sound as serious as they actually are. (Who needs a liver when your skin's this clear?)

But when it comes to reading educational texts, I find that that's another matter. The full text of the quote in the title of this post is as follows:

The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-trust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciples. A noble artist, he has visions of excellence and revelations of beauty, which he has neither impersonated in character, nor embodied in words. His life and teachings are but studies for yet nobler ideals. ~A. Bronson Alcott, "Orphic Sayings," in The Dial, January 1841

What I always took that to mean is that one always has to form one's own opinion. It's part of what annoys me about most news channels; fair and balanced, to be frank, isn't. The presenter's own bias shows in how they present whatever topic is trending. (Agh, why does English not have a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun? But I digress.)

That's problematic enough for a person who's simply watching the news; but I think it's especially dangerous to present an emotional bias to one side or another to a student, especially those whose understanding of a topic is incomplete (hence the studying). In my opinion, the student has to form an opinion based on straightforward fact, because when it comes to those facts, humans can handle the emotional interpretation on their own, and choose their side based on their own experience.

In educational texts, the reader is in the position of that news presenter. You want fair and balanced, you watch the entire congressional hearing, and not just the snippets that make it onto the talk show. You want a student that can form their own opinion, you make sure that student knows the difference between the facts presented and the teacher's opinion about those facts. When it comes to the reader, however, whose input can only ever be the words in the text that is read, the opinion can become indistinguishable from the fact (the inflection, the rhythm of pauses, all change the effect of how the information is presented and received).

It makes more sense now, why Chinese incorporates tone into the language. The way you say something does matter in what it means.

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