While life after graduation convinced me all the more that I am nowhere near Bardhan's smartness, I equally understood that constructive criticism is how I can best serve my fellow humans.
I was/am thankful get back to the academic world, which provides the best possible environment from which we can engage in constructive criticism. After all, if we do not, and cannot, critique then what good are colleges for?
However, it seems like criticism is increasingly of the destructive and thoughtless kind. On television, it is yelling matches devoid of reason and evidence. Literary criticism has all but disappeared from the public scene. Was the death of Christopher Hitchens the final, ahem, nail in the coffin?
At the other end, it is nothing but standing ovations for any activity, all the way from kindergarten to graduate school. Why this nauseating level of all enthusiasm and ovation all the time, and whatever happened to critics? Not every work deserves that gold star, writes this professional critic:
The sad truth about the book world is that it doesn’t need more yes-saying novelists and certainly no more yes-saying critics. We are drowning in them. What we need more of, now that newspaper book sections are shrinking and vanishing like glaciers, are excellent and authoritative and punishing critics — perceptive enough to single out the voices that matter for legitimate praise, abusive enough to remind us that not everyone gets, or deserves, a gold star.What he writes about the book world is equally applicable to the world outside of publishing too.
[Criticism] doesn’t mean delivering petty, ill-tempered Simon Cowell-like put-downs. It doesn’t necessarily mean heaping scorn. It means making fine distinctions. It means talking about ideas, aesthetics and morality as if these things matter (and they do). It’s at base an act of love. Our critical faculties are what make us human.He puts it really, really, well: criticism comes out of a love for ideas and their beauty, whether that idea is scientific, musical, literary, or whatever. It is precisely to develop an appreciation and understanding of these that we (supposedly) engage in higher education where we (supposedly) emphasize "critical thinking."
Of course, engaging in criticism might not win friends:
Until you work up the nerve to say what you think and stand behind it, young critics and fellow amiable tweeters, there’s always the advice the critic George Seldes gave in the title of his 1953 memoir: “Tell the Truth and Run.”I suppose my problem is that I don't run even when it is clear that is what I am told to do!
I am here; deal with it :)