Criticism leads to objective self-reflection

I have never loved Tech. While I might have come close to jumping the threshold from “really like” to “love” a couple of times, I have also been between “dislike” and “hate” an equal number of times. What can I say: it is just part of my personality to not feel too strongly about anything. That is why in this space, the last editorial I will ever write for the Technique, I will not do what other students and even my colleagues always do: write about how even though Tech was tough, it taught me a lot, and I love the school for all it has given me. I will be frank; right now, that editorial would be a lie. In five, 10 or maybe 20 years, I am sure my perspective will have changed. For now, though, it is what it is.
But I would also be lying if I said the school has not taught me a couple of life lessons. I feel as though one lesson in particular is important to share because— even more than my technical knowledge or my writing skills—this is what I have taken away from my five years at the school.
Do not take criticism personally, and do not be instantly dismissive of it. If there is one thing I have seen over and over again, it is that smart people assume negative critiques of their work equate to negative critiques of them as people. Those people need to take a step back and think about something: is it even worth it to criticize something if you do not want to see improvement? I have frequently chosen not to say something about poor work because I felt as though it is a waste of time, but I am always vocal about things that matter. Criticism requires a bit of reflection, but I have seen so many people respond unfavorably whenever presented with a view that is unlike their own.
As a student, I have weathered a fair bit of criticism from teachers, and it usually amounted to having a worse grade. But isn’t that the whole point of a teacher: to evaluate, criticize and provide feedback in order for you to become a better student? I accepted this, and the criticism they leveled against me was almost universally fair and constructive. I never thought of myself as a lesser person because I got a B instead of an A in that one class. The grade is a reflection of how well you did relative to the rest of the class, not how dumb or smart you are. Students who allow their work to define them at Tech are likely the unhappiest people here.
Now as editor-in-chief, I have heard even more criticism. I have also heard a good deal of praise, all of which I am extremely thankful for, but that is not what usually sticks with you. It is the negative comments. I have been told that I have published “stupid” articles, that articles were unfair and that even my tenure as editor-in-chief has made the paper worse. Some have been true, some have not been, but I was always interested when people would at least give me feedback. In a personal email to me a couple of months ago, I was told about a certain mistake I had approved in an issue of the Technique. I was told that my mistake was a part of “… a legacy of incompetence that will follow the Technique forever.” It was an anonymous email (as many of the emails with the most extreme language are), but it was fair and required me to take a step back and think about many of the mistakes I had made through the year. Admiring one’s own work that is praised is of infinitely less value than reevaluating the work that is criticized the most. Do not delete those emails saying ugly but truthful things; instead, use it as bulletin board material.
Still, one of the most basic ways to get criticism is to surround oneself with a group willing to express it. I luckily have a support group that will always be honest with me. When I approve something unwise in a part of the newspaper on deadline night, someone on my newspaper staff will always call me out and tell me what I am doing is stupid, and that, honestly, it is the wrong decision. I am lucky to have people tell me that what I am doing is wrong, and I know that what they tell me will make my work better.
The criticism that was given to me by everybody, including the people who sometimes used four-letter words as adjectives, verbs and nouns in the same sentence, helped shape the work I do. So as I part from Tech and the Technique, I want to thank everybody who said anything to me about what I do, anything at all. It is what helped me get through my five years here, and hopefully, it will be what helps me create those positive feelings for Tech…eventually.


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