CA Schools: Some Constructive Criticism of a “Feedback vs. Criticism” Lesson

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.*

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