One of my favorite books is Robert Heinlein’s 1961 science fiction classic, Stranger in a Strange Land.
One of the reasons I like this book so much is Heinlein’s introduction of the “Fair Witness.” A Fair Witness is a professional who is specially trained to observe events and to report back those observations. The Fair Witness only reports exactly what he or she sees and hears. They make no assumptions, extrapolations, or inferences. No emotions, biases or prejudices. Nor do they draw any conclusions from what they observe. (As Joe Friday would say, “The facts, Ma’am. Just the facts.”)
In one scene, a Fair Witness is asked the color of a house. The witness responds, “It’s white on this side,” referring to the side that she can see. The Fair Witness makes no assumptions about the color of the house on the sides she cannot see. Further, after observing a different side of the house, the Fair Witness does not assume that the previously viewed side was still the same color it was when previously viewed – even if that previous viewing was mere moments ago.
Unfortunately, this profession is still a fictional one.
However, you may note that the role of the “judge” in a fencing match is EXACTLY the same as the role of the Fair Witness. Judging requires that you report only what you see. Not what you think happened, not what “must” have happened.
Only what you see and nothing else.
This is one reason why I don’t use the electrical scoring apparatus. It deprives students of the opportunity to develop their ability to observe objectively. The ability to observe objectively is an essential component of critical thinking. You must first become aware of your biases -- personal and cultural – and then practice eliminating them.
The practice part is important.
You get physically stronger by consciously, regularly and progressively challenging your body to do more than it has done before. Run faster. Jump higher. Lift more weight.
You get mentally stronger, and morally stronger in the same way: by consciously, regularly and progressively engaging in observation and analysis at a more demanding level than you have previously done.
To learn, to grow, to achieve excellence, kiss your “comfort zone” good-bye.