I believe a good critic is a teacher. He doesn’t have the answers, but he can be an example of the process of finding your own answers. He can notice things, explain them, place them in any number of contexts, ponder why some "work" and others never could.1
This quote is from film critic Roger Ebert and to me it perfectly explains what a critic should strive to be, and why.
I found the quote via The Ihnatko Almanac, another one of the many great shows on the 5by5 podcast network. It is hosted by Andy Ihnatko, who I’d managed to never heard of before Ihnatko Almanac launched. If you haven’t either, head over to Andy Ihnatko’s Celestial Waste of Bandwidth, or start listing to the podcast to get to know him.
Ihnatko is an interesting part of the 5by5 Network because he tends to be very humble, in a way that my other favorite hosts (John Siracusa and Marco Arment) are not. He seems more thoughtful, less focused on being right and more open-minded. Siracusa’s show Hypercritical is still my favorite podcast, but Ihnatko Almanac is a welcome contrast.