The work of a critic


Out and about / Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so…

– Anton Ego, food critic in Ratatouille

*****

Confession: I love critiquing.

One of the wonderful things about the school to which I send my sons (Faith Builders Christian) is that it’s a training school: a place to equip teachers as well as pupils. That means for several weeks each fall, new people from across the country will take turns in my children’s classrooms. They make yards of lesson plans. They teach classes. They get videoed. They receive endless evaluation forms. They learn from their mistakes. They get better.

Their instructors teach them, critique them, hone them… and call in a few community people to offer an outside perspective. I get to sit and watch from my comfy chair in the back row, and write down “anything I think is significant.” Do they teach well? Do they invite student involvement? How do they manage the classroom? Do they use questions and equipment effectively? How do they relate with the children? How do they respond to difficult situations? Can they problem-solve on the fly?

I write it all down.

And I know that they are braver than I.

It takes little courage to critique, and much to create. In fact, sometimes the act of offering critique is so delightful that we get stuck there for most of our lives, sniffing out the best of the best (teachers, coffee, art, music, love)… so occupied in passing judgment on everyone else’s contributions that we can ignore the small memo “I am creating nothing of value myself.”

My husband calls it aspirational paralysis: when unable to meet my own high expectations, I end by producing nothing. I call it cowardice, though I—.

Well.

I am the aspirational paralysis case study.

Anyone who breaks free from it is worthy of a hat tip.

*****

Can you create and present with courage a thing you know is flawed? What? How?

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Janelle Glick
8 years ago

Yes – I can create and present what I know is flawed. I live my whole life this way. But I could be a whole case study in something called cynical idealist (I made that term up, I think) I have lots of ideals, but I rarely – if ever -expect to meet them. I expect to be flawed. I don’t take myself too seriously; it is suffocating. A tip of the hat would be welcome, but it would be a surprise to me. 🙂 My question is “Can you listen to someone present with courage a thing they believe to be without flaw? What? How?”.

8 years ago
Reply to  Janelle Glick

You’re funny. Good question.

Admin
8 years ago
Reply to  Janelle Glick

I don’t understand the question. I always present courageously and lfawlessly.

Janelle Glick
8 years ago
Reply to  Not the Boss

Ha, ha. 🙂

Matthew
8 years ago

Thank you for the call to create with courage, in spite of our inability to create or perform perfectly. I do think that “aspirational paralysis” does sound nicer than “cowardice”, though. I’ll have to remember that the next time I’m stuck on a project.

Ruth Anna
8 years ago

Ahem! You’ve got that exactly right! “YARDS of lesson plans!” Yes! Couldn’t agree more! =) Good one!

Jolene
8 years ago

I love this!!!! Thanks for helping me gain a little more courage to present my imperfections and a little less smugness about my wonderful (critical) observations.

Bethany
8 years ago

Good doesn’t mean perfect. Very flawed things often accomplish very wonderful things.

8 years ago

Thought provoking post…and I like what your friend Bethany said.