Writing Better Requirements or Riding Into Failure

Originally published by The Bottom Line, April 22, 2015

University requirements can often feel threatening to students forced to take courses outside their major. When a political science major is forced to calculate standard deviation in a statistics class, a biology major needs to read a novel on post-colonial literature, or an economics major must write 10 pages on the principles of sociology, nearly all of these situations result in deer-in-headlights reactions.

While all students will at one point feel out of their element by taking some required course that is not their forte, it is required in order to expand their horizons and widen their skill sets. In the effort to create requirements in the best interest of students, one subject requirement for all undergraduates at the University of California, Santa Barbara seems to have fallen behind. The university currently only requires students to fulfill Writing 2 for their writing requirement, a class that has several ways to test out of and avoid altogether.

Nearly all courses require a hefty amount of writing. We all stock up on blue books come midterms and finals week, we pull all-nighters to turn in that 15-page essay we should have started two weeks ago, and we generally turn in numerous assignments that require basic writing skills. All of this, however, does not substitute the importance of writing courses. Imagine a football team that never held practices because they played in enough games. Overlooking a writing requirement because other subjects require enough writing is just as flawed.

Many skills we are taught in life overflow into nearly all parts of our lives. Learn to be a strong public speaker, and you can succeed no matter what field you choose. Practice critical thinking and apply it to any subject. Writing well is perhaps one of the most indispensable of these lifelong skills that is only of increasing relevance in the technological age.

Today, the technological age results in us using written communication more than ever before. From texts, e-mails, memos, and social media posts, we are consistently writing more than speaking. The Internet also allows your writing to be more visible. A wider audience means more people observing your written voice, style, and even grammar. A stronger writing requirement would mean better preparedness for the world we live in.

Writing well in the modern age not only can dictate your personal life, but your professional life as well. More and more jobs require writing samples or written content along with a cover letter and resume. Employers expect the best skills in written communication from future employees, and a simple mistake could cost you a potential job.

Understanding the lifetime benefits of writing, many Ivy League schools have already adopted a three-level writing requirement, comprised of an intro level writing class, a rhetoric and oral presentation-writing course, and finally, a third level major-specific writing requirement. Strong writing requirements like these propel students past the introductory writing level by creating a foundation for major specific writing skills.

The reality is that writing a blue book final or a few papers per quarter does not sufficiently prepare students for a lifetime of writing well. The benefits of a stronger writing requirement will not only follow students into their other courses, but will remain with them well after graduation. In an age when the world is placing ever-increasing focus on written language, it’s time UCSB did the same.

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