Educated to Criticize?

I don’t get it!

In the past few days, I showered you with Droplets of excerpts from the book of Dale Carnegie. Most excerpt I chose bring with it a sense of universal, timeless, and very self-evident truths embedded in every note of its tone whenever you try to articulate it.

Universal means that those principles are supposed to be understood in every culture regardless of whether you come from the East or from the West, or from anywhere. Timeless means that whether you are from the stone age, agricultural age, from the industrial age, or from our present internet or information age, these truths remain truths. Self-evident in simpler term means “obvious”—you don’t need empirical researches, or extensive studies, you don’t need to be masters or doctors of certain discipline, you don’t need any title or position to at least observe that these principles are true to most of us; you only need to be open-minded and humble in order for you to recognize these truths.

However, given its powerful description of having universality, timelessness, and obviousness, still many people, including educated people don’t get it. And that is what I don’t get. That exactly is what I don’t understand!

Why is it that despite our society’s enormous knowledge of many things around and about us, these knowledge seem to be so enormously inadequate too, inadequate to at least recognize very obvious, universal truths that have been existing for maybe thousands of years?

Encounters

One night, I was having a conversation with a crying 17-year-young woman who has been severely criticized for something she didn’t do. The following morning, just fifteen hours later, I was listening to an adult lady having exactly the same predicament. At first, she tried hard not to appear weak or hurt, well at least in her face. But eventually the impact of pain kicked in. She burst into tears…into reasonable tears. These two ladies are not friends, they come from different worlds—one a teenager; the other, an adult—yet they are experiencing very similar painful situations. Both are emotionally hurt.

It’s so saddening that the people who hurt them are highly educated people. And they were supposed to be the people who would be considered as “friends” and “mentors.”  By default, their titles and professions suggest that they must be people who can be trusted. Yet they betrayed the trust of these two ladies in different occasions by being too judgmental and by delivering sharp, uncalled for, and very bitter criticisms.

Why?

Is that what our modern sophisticated, full-packed systems of education teach us? By learning too many advanced academic subjects and focusing too deeply on mastering them, we forget the obvious, the basic, the more powerful lessons! Of course, not all educated people are like that, but I guess most of us are. Yes, including me. I cannot deny that I also criticize too much. I criticize more than I praise. How about you in your daily life? Do you praise more than you criticize?

What is the use of education if all we can learn are academic matters instead of life matters? What is the use of education if it develops pride and prejudice to us…pride and prejudice that will make us criticize other people just because we don’t agree with them?

We have learned so much about the technical side of life—mathematics, literature, science, arts, and many other subjects in between—but have we learned not to throw sharp, bitter and useless criticisms? Have we learned yet not to become judgmental to others?

Does our modern education help us develop the knowledge, attitude and skill NOT to criticize others, but instead understand them? Where is the proof?

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9 thoughts on “Educated to Criticize?

  1. Your post is very interesting because I’ve recently been pondering the same thing! I’ve noticed the same contradiction. Several people I know that are real “Dale Carnegie people” are…uneducated, rather simple, have what we call in the US “blue collar” jobs, and rarely read a book. Speaking stereotypically, I’d expect these type of people to be social dolts lacking Dale Carnegie skills. Yet, they have wonderful social skills! They get it! While some of the educated, well-read, more advanced people I know seem very lacking in Dale Carnegie skills! They seem to lack even basic common sense on how to relate to people. I don’t get it either!

    I think you hit it when you said this: “By learning too many advanced academic subjects and focusing too deeply on mastering them, we forget the obvious, the basic, the more powerful lessons!” We get arrogant, and forget that we can learn from everyone. “Simple people” can see things we miss because their minds aren’t so cluttered with facts. Unfortunately, we can get so smart that we actually become stupid and miss obvious things. Thanks for a good post. As an academic myself, I needed this caution and reminder.

    1. Hello Laura,

      You know, it’s really a saddening observation.

      In the beginning part of the book, Dale quoted a Princeton University president saying, “Education is the ability to meet life’s situation.”

      In our modern time, I think the education becomes, “the ability to deal with academic situations,” instead of “the ability to meet life’s situation.”

      Oh, by the way, I like your phrases, “Dale Carnegie people” and “Dale Carnegie skills!”

      Thanks for your profound thought!

  2. Another great post! As an art teacher of adults I often have students who are themselves professionals in their fields. All of their lives they have wanted to learn to draw and paint but for many reasons they come to me at midlife very hesitant and self doubting. they have finally decided to take the risk. Without exception the first few months are spent convincing them that creating art does not depend so much on “talent” but more on life experience and what you have to say. I can teach and have taught many people to draw and to paint but I cannot teach them WHAT to paint. Once they are past their intimidation they take off and produce wonderful artwork!

    Anyway, I will get down off my soapbox! I really just wanted to compliment you on a great post. It set me to thinking! Thank you.

    It seems to me that people who constantly put down others regardless of their intellectual prowess are really insecure and full of self doubt about themselves. what I don’t understand is how that translates into allowing them to feel better about themselves? Helping others to feel competent and secure and seeing their progress yields riches for you so how can the opposite not make you feel badly? And why do these people feel that they always have to be right. More insecurity?

  3. Criticism comes in different packages, and I think sometimes, it is the delivery of the package, and not the package itself, that packs the punch. Constructive criticism, when delivered with suggestions of how to make something, someone, yourself perhaps, better, can be a very positive thing. Criticism for the sake of being ugly, or delivered with malice, is another matter altogether. I think too, sometimes the person receiving the criticism is responsible for their reaction. Some people are incapable of handling the truth, even when it is to their benefit. Likewise, many people can not separate the truth from lies, and allow other people to define who they are by THEIR words. Before one allows others to alter their opinion of themselves, people should ultimately look inward for their own answers (in my opinion). 🙂

    1. You are right Marcy, criticisms come in different packages; some are directed to the person, some are “constructively” directed to the specific behavior of a person.

      Some criticisms are delivered with love and concern; some are delivered with hatred and condemnation.

      People of high character can deliver a strong criticism without attacking the dignity of the person being criticized. Disrespectful people deliver “sharp uncalled for” criticism for their own gratification—not for construction.

      And yes, you are absolutely right, and I absolutely agree with you that we are responsible for our own response to criticisms.

      In the context of my article—when I mentioned that young woman who had been criticized for the things she didn’t do—I was clearly pointing out those kind of destructive (non-constructive) criticisms, those that are uncalled for.

      Some people really don’t think or verify before they criticize—and that reflects a lot of their character.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Marcy!
      God bless you!

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