We're all highly self-conscious ants, because that's what it means to be a modern person. Constant self-assessment and self-reflection are part of our program. Authenticity is a snark -- although someone will always go hunting for it.
I just thought that this stuff mattered more than anything else, and being around other people who felt the same way, in a setting where all we were required to do was to talk about each other's work, seemed like a great place to be. I don't think the workshops taught me too much about craft, but they did teach me about the importance of making things, not just reading things. You care about things that you make, and that makes it easier to care about things that other people make.
And if students, however inexperienced and ignorant they may be, care about the same things, they do learn from each other.