A critical mirror
Posted December 10, 2016on:
One of my approaches in life and in education is that it is better to be cruel to be kind.
I would rather be candid and even blunt if you need to be told you are wrong. I would rather not pad a punch if you deserve it.
I reserve such directness for contexts when a bridge is clearly out and only I can sound a warning. Most other times I can gradually and gently get to the issue.
However, I know that my role is often that of the critical mirror during discussions. If people talk nice or skirt the issue, I will be frank and direct if I sense that if the hearer is not listening.
For example, I have been approached by two corporations with grand designs on educational technology. In one instance I was asked to say something nice about a delivery platform. In another, I was asked to give feedback on a product release.
In the first case, I was said I was not a mouthpiece for the company. Furthermore, in my previous capacity of researcher, I had found evidence contrary to the claims of the company. The company had not dug deep enough and I offered to provide a more balanced view.
The second case is pending and will remain in limbo as long as the company thinks I will offer my time and effort for free. If I offered it, my review would one that combines experience with a distillation of reflective practice and critical research. You would not ask an accountant or a dentist to do professional work for free. I do not work for free either.
In both cases, I hold up a critical mirror to the companies so that they might reflect on their current practices and attitudes towards potential partners. A hard look reveals things they might not like to see, but that is something I offer for free because we all benefit from reflection.