- the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
- the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.
- the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc.-From Dictionary.com
I really enjoyed the responses I received to How Should We Criticize?. Thank you. Those who responded touched on the layers of complexity that are involved with criticizing. Some of the points were:
- The relationship between the two people involved matters in how and whether to criticize.
- People who are in a position to be criticized (ie. students) often have a conscious amount of skepticism as self-defense from dangerous teachers.
- Fear of criticism can cause someone, who might otherwise want help, to avoid seeking a teacher.
- Criticism can cause an emotional “hijack”, which makes learning impossible.
- Stress in the student’s life can raise the likelihood of this “hijack”.
The overall sense I got is that criticizing is dangerous at least and harmful at worst. This is my view as well. I want to move away from using criticism towards something else, but criticism is a learned behavior and will take some time to change. To start, we have to know why we criticize to begin with.
What’s the Goal of Criticizing?
Why criticize? For my purposes, we criticize to change someone’s behavior.
But criticizing and changing another’s behavior are two different things. It’s a particular technique to achieve that goal. Criticism generally involves descriptions of faults and, as the definition describes, a judgment as to whether those faults leave a work with any merit. Suggestions for improvement are then given.
The value of criticism as a teaching method is questionable. For the person receiving it:
- It can feel like an attack on them personally, especially if their current behaviors are considered “wrong”. Their reaction may have an emotional element that prevents learning.
- Even if there is no emotional reaction, for the purposes of learning the value of receiving ready-made answers from an authority is less than figuring it out for yourself.
- Describing the negatives of something may actually reinforce the behavior being criticized rather than be a catalyst for new behavior.1
However, it is difficult to move away from criticism. I try, but I always manage to find myself criticizing. Even this post falls into some of criticism’s traps by criticizing criticism itself. Therefore, I do not underestimate the challenge of finding alternatives.
Nevertheless, I’ll be exploring alternatives more in the coming weeks on Beginning Singer both descriptively and in practice as much as I can. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Have you found alternatives to criticism? If a student had just done something that could be improved upon, how could you approach it without being too critical?