TOK presentation ideas: The Voice vs X Factor

I thought I’d repost this as an homage to the WJEC English language exam sat yesterday by my Y11s…

Students might be surprised to read that my focus here would not be art or judging art, but rather the power of language to raise the tone of the programme. In fact, I am interested in the power of language, and specifically in the term “coaches” rather than the term “judges” so favoured by the Cowell models.

This might seem to be small beer, but it isn’t. Consider the emotional response to the title “judge”. we see an elderly, be-wigged, authority figure dispensing impartial justice with a mind closed to emotional response and focused clearly on reason. Such a title was presumably chosen to confer an air of omniscience and authority on the motley crew who sit in front of the aspiring superstars and dispense “justice” in the form of banal platitudes to magnify performances that rarely step beyond the ordinary when judged against the music profession as a whole – yes, they are a step above the karaoke club circuit, but the programme demands that they be judged against artists of long experience and undoubted talent. Our “judges” dispense justice with an emotional fog – imagine the Old Bailey being full of the ” this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…” responses which belies the point of the title in the first place.

Of course, the reason is that they aren’t judges at all. They are, as the BBC has discovered, “coaches”. At one twist of the lexicon, the BBC has produced a group of stars who seem to be acting out of altruistic motives – who want little more than to provide assistance and guidance, before regretfully dispensing of the team member who seemed least engaging to an emotion driven and highly partisan audience vote. The illusion was wonderfully maintained throughout the “blind auditions” – if it’s good enough for top orchestras like the VPO, why not here?- before they were given the chance to jettison the least photogenic or least obviously engaging members of their team. Now they have five team members to “coach”. I have no idea how much actual “coaching” they do – two invisible vocal coaches are listed in the credits – but they seem such wonderfully “nice” people, and so committed to their charges. They even praise each others’ team members. Suddenly this is not a competition where judgement is passed on the weakest links, but has become a sort of postgraduate performing arts college where students are encouraged to deliver of their best.

Such positivity in a single word!

Enjoy your ToK!

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