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Another writing course?!?!?

Paper pusher

Paper pusher

How does this course fit into the rest of the curriculum and your career?

Four or five years from now, if you get a job because of your college degree, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to keep that job. The job you get will probably be with an organization. You’ll always have a boss, of course, and you yourself may be other people’s boss. Since you don’t want the kind of job where you make things, the factory jobs that many people go to college in order to avoid, then you’ll have the kind of job where you manipulate information about the things that other people make, often in a different country. You’ll have what’s known as a desk job. We used to call those folks paper pushers, but now it’s more accurate to say computer file managers. What will you do at that desk, in front of that computer?

The way an office used to look.

The way an office used to look.

You’ll read and write. You’ll be expected to think clearly about the reading and writing so that you can help manage change in your organization. In a large organization, you’ll be a small cog in a large machine. But even if you are self-employed or if you are a small-businessperson with only a couple of employees, then you wear all the hats and are responsible for — and accountable for — managing all the change in your small organization.

Are you ready?

In many ways, yes, you are ready. In other ways, you aren’t. Those large organizations want to see whether you can graduate from college, which will mean that you’re probably reasonably good at doing what bosses (teachers) ask you to do, no matter how nonsensical it may seem. In other words, you know how to “get with the program”.

The office B.I. (before the Internet)

The office B.I. (before the Internet)

The other thing those organizations want you to be able to do is to think and communicate clearly. It doesn’t matter whether you know much about the industry because they can always train you and it’s always changing anyway. In other words, your courses in sport management or criminal justice or education will help you get your first job in one of those industries. But this writing course and your other liberal arts courses will help you keep that job in order to get enough experience to get your next job in that field.

Note that for the second job, your major matters far less than your experience. If you have several years of successful experience in an organization or an industry, it doesn’t matter what your major was. In fact, many companies try to avoid stale thinking and stimulate creative thinking by hiring people with a variety of college majors.

What this course is like

What this course is like

Let me switch analogies to sports.

If the communicating (thinking, reading, listening, writing, speaking) that you’ll do in twenty years is like playing the sport professionally, then the writing that you do for courses in your major in your senior year is like the pre-season. The writing that you do in other writing courses is like a scrimmage. Then do you know what this course is, ENG 110?

It’s calisthenics and fundamentals, it’s breaking the sport down and practicing all the parts by isolating them and repeating them. Let’s look at this course, College Writing, and the course for which it is a prerequisite: ENG 200 Analytical Writing.

In College Writing, you focus on paragraphs as building blocks of essays. In Analytical writing, you focus on essays as building blocks of organizational reports.

To use a basketball analogy, College Writing breaks the game into its components: we’ll focus on rebounding. Then we’ll focus on foul shots. Then passing. Analytical Writing is more like a scrimmage, where you’re putting the components together into practice games.

To continue the analogy, the games that count are the other courses you take. When those teachers ask you too write about their subjects, here’s the question:

Can you learn what you used in practice (the writing courses) to put together and execute an effective game plan, an essay or research report, in other courses?