Thursday, October 28, 2010

The straw critic

There's a recent trend in GP that so-called 'balance' points get snuck into essays under the guise of reporting the views of the 'critics'. Otherwise, they're called 'detractors' or 'pessimists' or some other appellation.

But who are these critics? What are they critics of? What views do they detract from? Fact is, unless the essayist is targeting a specific criticism held by a known group of people, the critic in the GP essay is a figment of the student's imagination.

It is a convenient device to hang a weak oppositional viewpoint on so that they can assure themselves that they have considered 'the other side'. But once having done so, the better students will offer a counter-counter argument which is irritating, or just forget to deal with the critics' view on the unwritten assumption that they're just critics -- what do they know? Unforgivable!

In most GP essays, the 'critic' is used as a logical straw-man. Bring in some arbitrary, extreme, obscure point and attribute it to some imaginary non-entity. Beat the stuffing out of it, or simply ignore it, it doesn't matter because it isn't real in the first place.

What's real? People who talk to imaginary critics in life are either the delusional homeless or the institutionalized. Whatever has made this batch of students become so crazy?

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