January 25, 2021
Thanks to school by Zoom, parents are often treated to samples of what’s happening in their child’s classroom. Whereas I would expect a fair amount of leftward bias and propagandizing, today I noticed some odd business that inspired me to write the following letter to a teacher which I may or may not send.
Dear Mrs. Teacher,
I realize that curriculum isn’t prepared by individual teachers, but it’s my hope that the discussion of “feedback vs. criticism” could be given a fresh look.
In a lesson given to my child, “feedback” and “criticism” are being taught as alternatives. The students are being instructive to see “feedback” as a replacement word for what was previously taught as “constructive criticism.” Assuming we want our children to understand language, the definition of words, and some logical thinking, this misses the mark.
Treating “feedback” and “criticism” as mutually exclusive forms of communication is simply incorrect. Whereas “feedback” can be used as a softer word for “criticism” of any form, and might “imply” that it’s delivered in a friendly and encouraging manner, “feedback” is a superset and criticism comes in different forms, ranging from constructive, neutral and destructive, and these are all forms of “Feedback.”
Furthermore, contrary to what’s implied in the California curriculum instruction, “feedback” can include raw praise which isn’t synonymous with “constructive criticism” nor any other sort. For example, “I really love the way you draw!” is a form of feedback, that is a subset called “praise,” and thus mutually exclusive from the other variety of feedback we’d count as criticism.
The way this is being taught is clearly devised to cause students to reconsider how they present critique to others, which is nice. But it suggests that the person offering feedback, (in one of its many forms,) has all the power, and responsibility.*
If it were taught more accurately, it could also be an opportunity to teach resiliency. For example, individuals that inevitably face some form of feedback that either is “criticism” that’s either objectively counted as “constructive” or “destructive,” or, even just perceived as destructive, could be encouraged to do their own conversion. The ability for individuals to process, and ultimately control, how various forms of feedback are received, is an example of empowerment.
Children trained to have such power over their own destiny can take even the most hostile of destructive criticism and discard it, or more ideally to see if there’s some aspect of it that might be treated as “constructive criticism,” or more generically “feedback.” What might have been hostile and meant to discourage, can be neutralized as a destructive force and even reimagined as a form of encouragement. This serves as a lesson both in critical thinking, and personal empowerment.
In all cases, children should be being directed towards and not away from critical thinking skills and personal resiliency.
This is not to say that children should be expected to endure every hostility, and obviously children and adults alike should never be bullies (to children, nor otherwise,) but whenever there’s an opportunity to include a “sticks and stones” lesson of personal empowerment, it should, I believe, be taken. Additionally, institutions like public and/or private school aren’t really well equipped to deliver lessons in “manners and behavior,” and these are either developed by sound parenting, or much later for those who might enlist in the military or serve time in another highly structured environment.
Finally, questions like “should citizens be allowed to have drones,” presented to 5th graders is manipulative, and obviously designed to paint basic freedoms we should all enjoy as dubious. When drones aren’t used by government for spying, they’re deployed to blow up cars and cafes. Maybe we be asking what we allow government to own, rather than questioning aunt Wendy using a drone to enhance wedding photography, or Uncle Jack’s use of drone to capture bird’s-eye images of his old neighborhood.
*It should be no surprise that emphasis on the effects speech could have on a person, made extra vulnerable by indoctrination, would be a desired goal of a government that wants a public to beg for censorship. And to date this kind of lesson has proven effective, since a full 40% of Millennials now literally regard “free speech” as “oppression.”