Why does John Carroll make everyone take a writing course?
As a graduate instructor of English 125, I begin each semester asking this question and spend the rest of the semester defending the answer.
Freshman year is exhilarating—you’re freed from home, responsible for your own living and learning, and discovering who you are. Then, you’re handed a list of requirements you must meet in order to graduate. This is somewhat less exhilarating.
The Core Curriculum momentarily takes your newly found freedom. You might feel excited about classes that interest you, but less enthusiastic about some others. Your reactions might resonate with these:
Math? iPhones have calculators.
Science? I can Google that.
Political Science? We have the news.
Philosophy? I’m aware that I’m a person and things are beautiful.
Writing? I’ve been writing since kindergarten.
Yes, you have been writing since kindergarten. And, yes, it is necessary you learn to write all over again. You’re now writing for a collegiate, academic, and professional world that demands strong critical, argumentative writing. I promise you didn’t cover this type of writing in kindergarten.
Your EN 125 class is going to be a big building block to your success in all of your classes thanks to the way the Core Curriculum is arranged. Your writing at John Carroll will develop over time, looking something like this:
EN 125 is step one: good academic writing. You’ll learn that there are a lot of genres and differences between majors. But, you’ll also learn each have similar values: an appropriate tone, a focused response, organization, objectivity, clarity, etc. With a mere five projects, the class aims to instruct you in good academic writing skills that surpass spell check and Google.
Your other classes are step two: practice, practice, practice. In many classes, you’ll learn the information through writing assignments, especially research and reflection papers. The feedback you receive will focus on the accuracy and support of your paper. But, the feedback will also focus on whether or not your writing is organized, makes sense, contains references, etc. This step is a repetition of your good academic writing skills!
Your writing intensive class is step three: application to your future. At this point, you’ll be sure of your major and focused on succeeding and finding a job. This class forces you to write as a professional in your field. You will use the appropriate citation style, sections, references, tenses, and tones. These are the polishing steps in writing successfully, which only succeed when used with good academic writing skills.
You will never focus on just writing after EN 125.
The idea appeals to many, but the reality is scary. When you move into upper level courses and then into the workplace, you will be tasked with many writing assignments: research papers, reflections, memos, notes, letters, grants, objectives, goals—the list goes on and on and on. Some of these assignments you will have had direct experience with while others will be completely new.
By transferring skills and ways of thinking from EN 125 to other courses, you will always have a starting place. After all, look at the foundational types of writing and thinking we’re expecting:
This is why EN 125 matters.
Your major, favorite kind of music, wardrobe, and political opinions might change during your time in college; the skills you need for good academic writing will not. At its roots, good academic writing is the same in every discipline, for every assignment, and with every professor.
Liz Malloy is a second year graduate assistant and EN 125 instructor. She is also a friendly face in the Writing Center as a consultant.