University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
First Year Writing
The first year biology majors and accounting major of YU are all asking themselves the same question: “How is First Year Writing going to help me? ” As an accounting major in the Syms School of Business, I was extremely troubled by the university requirement to take first year writing as well. “How will FYW help me with balance sheets? ” I asked myself. How will this class get me an accounting internship this summer that I so desperately need to improve my resume? Seemingly, FYW will not assist me in realizing my professional aspirations.
Furthermore, the requirements of a dual curriculum are taxing enough without the added labor an “extra,” unnecessary requirement. Having finished the course, I believe that First Year Writing should be mandatory for all students for three reasons: FYW raises students’ awareness of critical educational issues, it develops their writing skills, and cultivates intellectual independence. In my First Year Writing class, I was first exposed to articles that dealt with educational issues such as the promotion of online-education and the advancement of math and science at the expense of the Liberal Arts.
My professor began a class discussion about the popularization of online education by assigning David Brook’s article “The Campus Tsunami. ” Brooks documents the millions of dollars dedicated by elite colleges such as Harvard and M. I. T. to e-learning the year. Before reflecting upon and researching the issue, I thought of e-learning as a convenient, cheap and efficient form of education. Brooks’s article confirmed my initial feelings. However, in this FYW required readings like an “An Elite College Education, Online? (which were response letters to Brook’s article) and “Summa Cum Avaritia” by Nick Brommel that forced me to engage the alternative point of veiw. These two articles argue that online classes should not supplant the class experience because online classes “reconceive knowledge as information” (Brommel,73).
Brommel distinguishes between knowledge and information and argues that online classes can convey only the latter. Students are delivered the facts but are not forced to synthesize the information with the rest of what they know. In the traditional classroom, professors introduce the students to omprehensive knowledge, not simply information. After reading these articles, I concluded that e-learning diminishes the quality of education. Simply put, online education cannot supplement the classroom experience. As a result of FYW’s student discussions and assigned readings, I reconsidered and, ultimately, shifted my view of e-learning.
“But who cares that you changed your view of e-learning? ” one might ask. But my view on e-learning has consequences. It might determine who I vote for (candidates disagree about online education) and, perhaps, the future choices I willmake regarding my children’s education. Although I do not have children, I hope to one day. ) In addition to raising my awareness of important educational issues, FYW gave me the opportunity to improve my writing skills. Before submitting my first essay, I went to the writing center for help. After I read over the essay to the professor at the writing center, he put a big X on the paper and recommended that I clearly outline my ideas before beginning the writing process. “Where is your thesis statement? Why does each one of your paragraphs have three different ideas? ” he asked. Quickly realizing that I was a novice writer, the professor gave me some instructive tips.
Now, before I start writing an essay, I outline what I want to say in each paragraph. And after much practice, I have a better understanding of how to formulate a clear thesis statement, simply my supporting paragraphs, and avoid general sweeping statements. In short, FYW has made myself and students like me better writers. Nevertheless, a science or business major might question whether writing is always a valuable skill. I maintain that the skill of writing assists is necessary for success as college student and professional, regardless of one’s major or career.
In my first semester at YU, I was assigned a term paper in my management course, in which I was expected to clearly answer personal questions like “what is your vision for your career? ” No amount of biology or accounting could provide me with the tools necessary to answer the above question. FYW enabled me to both reflect upon and clearly articulate my professional aspirations. In addition to helping one in the classroom, developed writing skills, assist one in the workplace as well. Again, in my first semester, I asked my accounting professor to push off the exam so that I could finish an essay due that day.
As I offered my excuse, I began to ramble about the impracticality of writing for accountants. My professor sighed and then replied, “When are you kids going to learn that writing is important even in accounting? ” He explained that writing skills are necessary in order to communicate financial statements in a coherent manner. Poorly written reports with grammatical errors will lack credibility. Conversely, a well drafted report will be readily understood. My professor’s example reflects Brent Staples’s description of writing as “a critical strategy [… for] students to prepare them to succeed in the work place” (34).
But as Mark Slouka’s article “Dehumanized” demonstrates, Staples and my accounting professor’s view of writing does not fully capture the importance of writing and the humanities. Most importantly, FYW has forced me to become intellectually independent. As a former soldier in the Israeli Defense forces, I struggled with the adjustment to Yeshiva University life. In the I. D. F. , I lived a life of obedience: I ate when told to eat, slept when told to sleep, and even showered was I was told to shower.
Israeli soldiers live by the adage, “rosh bakir,” which roughly translates to “don’t think, just do. ” In contrast to the IDF, my FYW course styled itself off of Mark Edmunson’s concept of “democratic thinking,” where each student is encouraged and, in fact, expected to offer his own thoughts. During my year and half long army service, my life choices were made for me. But upon entering YU, my FYW course required that I apply intellectual independence in evaluating the “Purpose of Liberal Arts,” a difficult task for a soldier whose bathroom breaks were previously timed.
Initially, I viewed my professor as commander and myself as soldier. I relied on her exact directions about how to write the essay at hand. Quickly, my professor identified my dependency and challenged me to develop and articulate my own thoughts. But one need not serve in the army in order to fear independence. Like soldiers, students who simply who “go with the flow” depend heavily on things like social pressure and parental guidance. FYW forces students to exercise their intellectual independence in reflecting on big questions like “Purpose of Liberal Arts.
Throughout this essay, I have argued that that First Year Writing should be mandatory for all students for three basic reasons. First, FYW raises awareness about critical life issues of which online education is but a single example. Second, even accounting majors who may not interested in the humanities can apply the writing skills they acquired from FYW when doing assignments for other classes and, eventually, when drafting financial statements. But most importantly, FYW should be mandatory because it forces students to exercise their intellectual independence.