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- Public Speaking - 3/65 -

it gives also good mental discipline. The high regard for debating is not misplaced. We can hardly overestimate the good that debating has done to the subject of speaking in the schools and colleges. The rigid intellectual discipline involved in debating has helped to establish public speaking in the regular curriculum, thus gaining for it, and for teachers in it, greater respect. To bring training in speech into close relation with training in thought, and with the study of expression in English, is most desirable. This, however, does _not_ mean that training in speech, as a distinct object in itself, should be allowed to fall into comparative neglect. It is quite possible that, along with the healthy disapproval of false elocution and meaningless declamation, may come an underestimation of the important place of a right kind and a due degree of technical training in voice and general form.

In a recent book on public speaking, the statement is made that it is all well enough, if it so happens, for a speaker to have a pleasing voice, but it is not essential. This, though true in a sense, is misleading, and much teaching of this sort would be unfortunate for young speakers. It would seem quite unnecessary to say that beauty of voice is not in itself a primary object in vocal training for public speaking. The object is to make voices effective. In the effective use of any other instrument, we apply the utmost skill for the perfect adjustment or coordination of all the means of control. We do this for the attainment of power, for the conserving of energy, for the insuring of endurance and ease of operation. This is the end in the training of the voice. It is to avoid friction. It is to prevent nervous strain, muscular distortion, and failing power, and to secure easy response to the will of the speaker. The point not wholly understood or heeded is that, as a rule, the unpleasing voice is an indication of ill adjustment and friction. It denotes a mechanism wearing on itself--it means a voice that will weaken or fail before its time--a voice that needs repair.

Since speech is to express a speaker's thought, training in speech should not be altogether dissociated from training in thinking. It ought to go hand in hand, indeed, with the study of English, from first to last. But training in voice and in the method of speech is a technical matter. It ought not to be left to the haphazard treatment, the intense spurring on, of vocally unskilled coaches for speaking contests. Discussions about the teaching of speaking are often very curious. We are frequently told by what means a few great orators have succeeded, but we are hardly ever informed of the causes from which many other speakers have been embarrassed or have failed. A book or essay is written to prove, from the individual experience of the author, the infallibility of a method. He was able to succeed, the argument runs, only by this or that means; therefore all should do as he did. It seems very plausible and attractive to read, for instance, that to succeed in speaking, it is only necessary to plunge in and be in earnest. But another writer points out that this is quite absurd; that many poor speakers have not lacked in intense earnestness and sincerity; that it isn't feeling or intense spirit alone that insures success, but it is the attainment as well of a vocal method. Yet he goes on to argue that this vocal method, this forming of a public speaking voice and style, cannot be rightly gained from the teachers; it must be acquired through the exercise of each man's own will; if a man finds he is going wrong he must will to go right--as if many men had not persistently but unsuccessfully exercised their will to this very end. It is so easy, and so attractive, to resolve all problems into one idea. President Woodrow Wilson, of Princeton University, once said that he always avoided the man or the book that proclaimed one idea for the correcting of society's ills. These ideas on which books or essays are written are too obviously fallacious to need extended comment; the wonder is that they are often quoted and commended as being beneficial in their teaching. If we want to row or sprint or play golf, we do not simply go in and do our utmost; we apply the best technical skill to the art; we seek to learn how, from the experience of the past, and through the best instructors obtainable. Both common sense and experience show that the use of the human voice in the art of speaking is not the one thing, among all things, that cannot be successfully taught. The results of vocal teaching show, on the contrary, from multitudes of examples, from volumes of testimony, that there are few branches of instruction wherein the specially trained teacher is so much needed, and can be so effective as in the art of speaking.

In an experience extending over many years, an experience dealing with about all the various forms of public speaking and vocal teaching, the present writer has tried many methods, conducted classes on several different plans, learned the needs, observed the efforts, considered the successes and failures, of many men and women of various ages and of many callings. The constant and insistent fact in all this period of experience has been that skillful, technical instruction, as such, is the one kind of instruction that should always be provided where public speaking is taught, and the one that the student should not fail to secure when it is at hand. Other elements in good speech-making may, if necessary, be obtained from other sources. The teacher of speaking should teach speech. He should teach something else also, but he should, as a technician, teach that. The multitude of men and women who, in earlier and later life, come, in vocal trouble, to seek help from the experienced teacher, and the abundance of testimony as to the satisfactory results; the repeated evidences of failure to produce rightly trained voices wholly by so-called inspirational methods; the frequent evidences of pernicious vocal results from the forcing of young voices in the overintense and hasty efforts made in preparing for prize speaking, acting, and debating,--all these may not come to the understanding of the ordinary observer; they may not often, perhaps, come within the experience of the exceptionally gifted individuals who are usually cited as examples of distinguished success; they cannot impress themselves on educators who have little or no relation with this special subject; they naturally come into the knowledge and experience of the specially trained teacher of public speaking, who is brought into intimate relations with the subject and deals with all sorts and conditions of men. Out of this experience comes the strong conviction that the teacher of public speaking should be a vocal technician and a vocal physician, able to teach constructively and to treat correctively, knowing all he can of all that has been taught before, but teaching only as much of what he knows as is necessary to any individual.

For the dignity and worth of the teaching, the teacher of speaking should be trained, and should be a trainer, as has been indirectly said, in some other subject--in English literature or composition, in debating, history, or what not. He should be one of the academic faculty--concerned with thought, which speech expresses. He should not, for his other subject, be mainly concerned with gymnastics or athletics; he should not, for his own good and the consequent good of his work, be wholly taken up merely with the teaching of technical form in speaking. He should not be merely--if at all--a coach in inter- collegiate contests; nor should his service to an institution be adjudged mainly by the results of such contests. He should be an independent, intellectually grown and growing man, one who--in his exceptionally intimate relations with students--will have a large and right influence on student life. The offer recently held out by a university of a salary and an academic rank equal to its best, to a sufficiently qualified instructor in public speaking, was one of the several signs of a sure movement of to-day in the right direction--the demand for a man of high character and broad culture, specially skilled in the technical subject he was to teach, and the providing of a worthy position.

One fact that needs to be impressed upon governing bodies of school and college is that the cultivation of good speaking cannot but be unsatisfactory when it is continued over only a very brief time. It may only do mischief. A considerable period is necessary, as is the case with other subjects, for reaching the student intelligence, for molding the faculties, for maturing the powers, for adapting method to the individual, and for bringing the personality out through the method, so that method disappears. Senator George F. Hoar once gave very sensible advice in an address to an audience of Harvard students. He did not content himself with dwelling on the inevitable platitude, first have something to say, and then say it; he said he had been, in all his career, at a special disadvantage in public speaking, from the want of early training in the use of his voice; and he urged that students would do well not only to take advantage of such training in college, but to have their teacher, if it were possible, follow them, for a time, into their professional work. This idea was well exemplified in the case of Phillips Brooks--a speaker of spontaneity, simplicity, and splendid power. It is said that, in the period of his pulpit work, in the midst of his absorbing church labors, he made it a duty to go from time to time for a period of work with his teacher of voice, that he might be kept from falling back into wrong ways. It is often said that, if a man has it in him, he will speak well anyway. It is emphatically the man who has it in him, the man of intense temperament, like that of Phillips Brooks, who most needs the balance wheel, the sure reliance, of technique. That this technique should not be too technical; that form should not be too formal; that teaching should not be too good, or do too much, is one of the principles of good teaching. The point insisted on is that a considerable time is needed, as it is in other kinds of teaching, for thoroughly working out a few essential principles; for overcoming a few obstinate faults; for securing matured results by the right process of gradual development.

There is much cause for gratification in the evidences of a growing appreciation, in all quarters, of the place due to spoken English, as a study to be taught continuously side by side with written English. Much progress has also been made toward making youthful platform speaking, as well as youthful writing, more rational in form, more true in spirit, more useful for its purpose. In good time written and spoken English, conjoined with disciplinary training in thought and imagination, will both become firmly established in their proper place as subjects to be thoroughly and systematically taught. Good teaching will become traditional, and good teachers not rare. And among the specialized courses in public speaking an important place should always be given to an exact training in voice and in the whole art of effective delivery.





The common trouble in using the voice for the more vigorous or intense forms of speaking is a contraction or straining of the throat. This impedes the free flow of voice, causing impaired tone, poor enunciation, and unhealthy physical conditions. Students should, therefore, be constantly warned against the least beginnings of this fault. The earlier indications of it may not be observed, or the nature of the trouble may not be known, by the untrained speaker. But it ought to have, from the first, the attention of a skilled teacher, for the more deep-seated it becomes, the harder is its cure. So very common is the "throaty" tone and so connected is throat pressure with every other vocal imperfection, that the avoiding or the correcting of this one

Public Speaking - 3/65

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