Sunday, June 23, 2013

There are no "critics"

There is a phrase that keeps cropping up in this current batch of GP essays I'm grading. "Detractors/Critics of my view..." It irks me because the logical premise does not hold. If the intention of the essayist is to provide a "balanced" proposition, which party could possibly be a detractor or critic of that proposition? Logically, an UN-balanced idiot, moron, psycho, extremist, terrorist or otherwise someone with whom you should avoid eye contact, let alone engage in a reasoned debate.

The confusion I find myself in when grading such essays is that there is little to no signposting as to where the so-called critic's spiel begins and ends, and where the essayist's rejoinder or refutation begins. I find myself correcting poor arguments, only to realize that they were meant to be poor because they were allegedly the "critic's" arguments. Why work for the other guy, creating his argument for him before taking it all down again? Why put yourself on the defensive and struggle to regain ground you've lost... to yourself?

Don't speak on behalf of others you don't agree with. Most of the time, you'll misrepresent them or worse, create a bad straw-man argument because it won't be in your interest to make their case too strong. But that's going to upset me because I don't want to read bad arguments. Bad argument, bad grade. I'm sorry.

A good essay advances an argument. It sets up clear checkpoints and meticulously covers ground to meet them in sequence, step-by-step. There are no critics, no "opposition". I don't care what other people are saying; I want to hear what YOU are saying. What YOUR assessment of the situation is. What YOUR intention is in making me read through all this information you are presenting to me. That's it.

You kids want 'A' grades, so write like 'A' graders. Don't hide behind a barrage of information, most of which is smokescreen, anyway. You'll survive, probably, but 'A's are medals for those who dare to stand out. So, actually be informed. Take a real stand. Find your voice. Say what you really want to say. That's where the insight is.

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