[Note from the Future, in 2017: I swear this post (and a few other related ones) drove several higher-up faculty at my university to not give me the easiest learning experience.]
(This post will turn into a more academic report I’m writing on the value university departments, specifically my Business School, place on writing. Any early feedback will be greatly appreciated!)
In my mind, Marketing and Writing go really well together; tomorrow’s business managers NEED to write well and if they don’t gain the necessary skills to do so early on, when will they?
Unfortunately, my Business School, the David Eccles School of Business, doesn’t seem to agree because Business majors only have to take ONE(!) Business-specific Writing class during their four years there. In addition, each of the Business departments (Accounting, Marketing, and so on) have designated just two of their classes to be “writing-intensive,” meaning they require more writing than your average Business class and involve the participation of consultants from the Writing Dept. to “assist” students on their papers (read: “correct and edit our papers and then expect we get it”).
(PS: That’s not what a writing tutor does, but I digress.
Because of this lack of a writing-focused mentality, I decided to “rebel” by minoring in Writing & Rhetoric. I figured I might as well strengthen my persuasion and communication skills if I want to be successful in Business. I think I’m the only Business major within the very few students in the Minor– it’s almost as if the other 30,000 or so students (or their respective departments) simply didn’t see the value in such a field!
[Note from the Future, in 2017: Back in 2010, the Minor was very small. Also, I don’t know if there are more writing-intensive classes by now but I doubt it.]
The Problem with Business Classes Being “Writing-Intensive”
During my summer Marketing Management class, one of those selected to be “writing-intensive” for Marketing majors, we had to analyze and write memos based on several case studies. For two case studies, we were to submit long reports to a writing consultant, who apparently hated my first draft– or so her grade and numerous trivial edits told me. (As a Writing Center tutor myself, I was beyond devastated; was I really a bad writer? WTH had I been telling the students who came to visit and later thank me for their improved writing skills?)
A few days later, it was time for a revision and resubmission of that first long report. I worked really hard to get it done (and satisfy the tutor’s standards, of course) and, in the end, ended up getting a “better” grade–but not one that was good enough for my perfectionist self. So what to do? Well, honestly, I decided to be on her good side if it meant it’d make her happy and lead me to get better grades. And thanks to her help (read: suggestions for edits), I did receive a MUCH better grade on my other report and final revision.
(Note: Because of time and funding constraints, this consultant was never supposed to actually “help” me. Seriously. But she chose to because I hadn’t known she couldn’t and she simply thought it’d be unfair to ignore the request of a seeming ignorant student.)
Here are a few discrepancies I encountered with this method:
1) Our Marketing Manager professor ONLY cared about the content of our memos and reports; he always gave me high marks on these, so that was good. This makes the consultant’s opinions close to worthless to the average student. And I’m not the only one who think so: A good friend of mine actually considered the input from the writing tutor in her own Marketing Management class totally IRRELEVANT simply because her professor didn’t give it much relevance himself.
My own professor never hid the fact that he thought the tutor’s grades were sometimes drastically low and frequently explained that his main interest was our actual content. I ended up thanking this writing consultant for her help. But I must question the usefulness of her methods.
2) It WAS a summer class, meaning it lasted only 12 weeks– not enough time to holistically improve one’s writing skills beyond merely editing one’s papers. (Every Writing Center tutor and Writing teacher knows that edits don’t make a better writer and only [never-ending] practice makes “perfect.”)
3) As Business managers, yes, we’ll need to write well, but others may argue that we could hire good writers for all our writing needs, which is also true. Could this then make these writing-instruction initiatives obsolete?
Unfortunately, despite its well-intended efforts, my major department doesn’t seem to quite grasp it: Neither students nor most instructors are convinced that writing well is that important and neither party seems to be making an effort to understand its value.
But why must a university/college instill in us the value of expressing ourselves correctly? If my school set up higher standards for the way we engaged in communication, and for how thesis papers, memos and business reports should be structured and written, we would undoubtedly become a top-tier establishment where there’d be not only great accountants- and financiers-in-the making, but also great thinkers.
I deeply value my education at this university (it is a premier research institution, after all, so at least we do that right), but until we ALL recognize that merely suggesting edits for students’ papers DOESN’T constitute teaching them good writing/composition skills, we’ll continue to be ranked within the top hundreds/thousands (never good) instead of within the top dozen, ten(s), or handful(s).