I really appreciate my writer's group. My attitudes about critique, revision, editing, feedback, polishing and all that (these are all different things, btw) have been all over the map and will probably continue to change, but one thing remains constant--my desire, and I'll even say need, to double-check my writing.
When I started writing, I wasn't very good at reaching my audience. My language got in the way. I still struggle with words and voice, but thanks to the people who read my work and then said useful things about it, I've improved.
I think there's still more than enough room for improvement. In fact, I believe I have farther to go than I've already gone. I don't see how taking the reader/feedback out of my learning process would help. I suspect it would slow down my learning. Without handing over my story to someone and asking what they think, I'll never know if I'm getting my message through. How could I? Sure, I could try to employ rejectomancy (the art of reading rejection slips, similar to reading entrails) but I can't ask questions of editors, like where did I lose you, and why did you read as far as you did?
I had a good experience with this with my DH recently. He doesn't read much fiction, and when he does read it, normally he starts complaining and making scoffing noises or worst of all, he reads with his hand shoved against his face like he's trying to keep the skin from sliding off and exposing his pained skull. (Heat Wave by Richard Castle (fun story behind that book, btw) was a recent, rare exception.) He read something I wrote and his reaction was 'eh.'
Why eh, I asked.
The story didn't go where he would have taken it, for one, and another, it was mostly internal conflict. He has real trouble with what he experiences as endless character whining. I made a note to myself that to reach more people like my DH, I should keep trimming that introspection I love so much.
I know, you all gasped with shock at the news that I introspect a lot.
But then later he came back to me and told me he was still thinking about the story, and that one part in particular was really cool. That not only told me that I did something well, but that even though he'd just read a story he didn't care for, it stuck with him. I like reading stories with sticking power, and I'm trying to learn how to write them. I must be getting somewhere!
Anyway, I treasure my writing group for all of the above reasons, plus I get feedback from a diverse group of people all at the same time, which helps me get a much deeper sense of a story's underlying strengths and problems.