The critic is the sensitive feedback mechanism. The critic has to assume that the writer might go entirely by what the critic says or does not say.
Yes, I see what you are saying. That's why I called the critic an objective observer. Some of us are very encouraging, and others are harsh in their criticism. Recently, I called Mustafa the "Simon Kowel of EssayForum," because he is so poignant in his criticism. Even though I don't like to give criticism that stings, I know it is an important aspect of life.
Also, in a web forum you will get a lot of criticism that is not very accurate! So... these are good things to think about when accepting criticism.
.. if I may offer some critique on your critiquing, not everyone writes as you suggest above.
I can't say I disagree with you! As you can imagine, I have had lots of opportunities for reflection while moderating this site. What are we supposed to say about one another's art? It is hopelessly reductionist.
Reduction is the issue you are seeing! In order to teach "good composition," I need to reduce the art. This is important when trying to succeed in English class and also when trying to write well for an admissions essay. When we conform to the norms of "good composition" as it is taught in school, we cannot help reducing the art and being irreverent toward the student's absolute value, the sacredness of words that reflect the experience.
So, I really do agree with you. And in addition to the obvious reduction that occurs when we teach "good" composition, it is also true that my advice reflects my own habits and narrow view. So, you win on both counts! :-D
In my own defense, though, what I look for are "teachable moments" ... opportunities to get the kid to understand some concept relevant to the essay. It just happens to be the case that many students are at the point of needing advice about thesis statements!
And about structure... I really like what you said about "fear that expression will be constrained!" good thought! But then notice how writing a haiku presents a unique experience of self expression. ALSO notice that expression is constrained as soon as you codify it into language!
So, now maybe is a teachable moment for you:
You should give structure a try! When I read your long posts, it takes a long time to figure out what the theme is! And because of the inherent problems in codification and interpretation, what I read is not the same as what you write. Therefore, try constraining expression enough to make it so that an essay is about one big idea. One essay = one meaningful idea
... and try this formula for each essay:
Intro: Say it
Body: Explain it
Conclusion: Say it againExpression must be constrained
in order to be strategic about the experience we want to create for the reader.