I is for Inside Voice

| February 27, 2014
1. Growing up, my teachers would always tell the students to use our ‘inside voices’ if we were being too loud. These inside voices were meant to be heard only by a person a few feet away, such as across the table. Outside voices, on the other hand, were not used inside the classroom unless someone was giving a presentation, and even then the student was not told to use an ‘outside voice’ but rather just to speak up so others could hear.
2. Inside voices are not meant to fill the space. They are meant to occupy a certain area of the speaker’s surroundings and be contained within that perimeter. I should not hear you from across the room. The inside voice makes the cramped space of a classroom even more constricting. A student is already told to keep inside this box of the classroom then inside the box of a desk or a table and then inside this box where sound is not to be released.
3. Outside voices are space fillers, but impossibly so. The use of the outside voice implies that if one is outside, in an area of infinite space, one’s voice can project. Your voice can be as loud as possible, but it will still fail to fill the space.
4. While outside, the voice is allowed but unable to fill the space granted to it, inside, the voice is able but not allowed to fill its area. The classroom is set up so that one’s voice could be heard in every corner, but teachers would not commend this ability.
5. The demand to use the inside voice implies one’s vocal projections need to be restrained. It is not that different from the restraint many students are asked to enact in every classroom. Dialogue is meant to be restrained. Movement is typically heavily restrained. The space of the classroom is very often the domain of restraint, so it does not seem odd that the users of the inside voice would be praised for restraining their sounds from emitting beyond the imaginary boxes they occupy.