Being Critical of Anything is Good

This story gets under my nerves.  A professor asked his students to write an essay critical of U.S. VP Candidate Sarah Palin.  The article doesn’t provide any details of the assignment directly, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of any reason why such an assignment would be wrong, especially at the college level.

This isn’t about your views.  This isn’t about whether you like or dislike Sarah Palin.  Reading the sentence on it’s own merits, it doesn’t even necessarily mean finding flaws in Ms. Palin:

criticize
1. To find fault with: criticized the decision as unrealistic.
2. To judge the merits and faults of; analyze and evaluate.

I would like to draw your attention to the second definition, as it is the one most commonly used in higher education.

But let us suppose that this wasn’t the case.  The assignment really was to write an essay that found fault with Sarah Palin.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that either.  One thing any well balanced should be able to do is formulate an argument whether they agree with it or not.  It is a necessary part of being able to understand anything.

Where is the problem?

It drives me batty that anyone attending an institute of higher education would not recognize this.  It drives me batty that the press are even paying attention to this.  Isn’t the skill this lesson is aimed towards a fundamental part of being a journalist?

I’m planning on voting for Barack Obama this fall.  Here are a few faults he has:

  • His recent FISA vote was so wrong, that to completely explain why would not be appropriate for this blog post.
  • He appears to think it’s wrong to criticize other people’s religion.
  • A few of his commercials have not been completely honest in their criticisms of his opponent.

Those are three things right off the top of my head.  If I sat down to think about it more, I’m sure I could come up with several more.

I fear the real issue here is avoidance of being self-critical.  If you agree with Sarah Palin, criticism of her is criticism of you.  We can’t have that in the classroom, obviously.

Dammit, grow some courage, people.

“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers. -Carl Sagan”