Monday, May 06, 1996

Still on "good" Italian singers and "broken" stutterers

Look, Winston, I KNOW you were not trying to be demeaning. I am a trained singer myself (..yes tenor... the kind of voice that just gravitates towards Neapolitan classics - even though I'm from Milan -). I understand what you are talking about, but even in this area I have found pockets of "benign prejudice" that would juxtapose words such as LUSTY, BRIO, STRONG with sloppy, uncultivated, lacking in subtelty and on and on. It's not important whether or not you think Italians sing well or not. And even if you do, it doesn't make up for reaching what is MOST PROBABLY a wrong conclusion from your quite legitimate observation.

Winston is still wondering if there is a connection between the fact that the Italian PWSs "seemed", to him, " broken" ... "defeated" etc? And the way Italians tend to talk.

I have been saying two things:
1. Probably not, in spite of your observation, because
a) there are factors in Italian culture that could potentially offset the
negative (from a stuttering point of view) ones.
b) I would want to know more about the following: how many stutterers from other backgrounds do you know? What is your relationship with these stutterers? It sounds like they might be your students, in which case you might be confusing the kind of deference Italians feel for teachers with undue shyness and yes, your position could well produce extra embarrassment for stutterers. If they are your students then it shows that these people are subjecting themselves to the extra pain of facing a teacher for the sake of their art (is this "broken"? - but I'm just conjecturing).
c) One can question scientifically whether in fact loudness and vocalization have any effect on stuttering. I don't think so, but one COULD study this and one certainly SHOULD before coming up with labels such as "broken" for ANY category of people.
d) The evidence seems to be that there are about the same % of stutterers in all cultures, and they seem to be about as well adjusted as anybody else in the same culture.

2. One can certainly question point d) and bring in more conflicting evidence, BUT, particularly in light of the potential sensitivities involved, it would be wise to exercise some degree of circumspection and care in stating the questions and in proposing answers. This goes for IQ tests emotional test etc.

You keep saying "basta" and I agree, but there is simply no way I'm going to see the word "broken" associated with stutterers from ANY culture on the basis of the kind of observation you have stated, and just let it slide. Thousands of people read this. I don't advocate "Political Correctness" or ignoring areas of inquiry because of sensitivities. All I'm saying is: if it is sensitive it had better be real INQUIRY and not a casual comment you might throw in at a dinner conversation.

- How about stopping here (and/or taking it off-line... do I hear a chorus of yesses?)

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