Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm back, baby, and I'm angry...

A new semester has started, and after several months of neglecting my blog, I'm back with a vengeance. It's the third day of classes at Simpson College, and while for the most part I am very pleased with my students this semester, a few of them have really touched a nerve. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know what that nerve is: Some of my students this semester -- enrolled in a communication practicum class whose very catalogue description tells them they have to write -- are complaining because they have to write.

This upsets me on a number of levels. The first is that pretty much every student in this class, which is a new course that combines several old practicum courses into one, is a communication major. They either have a Multimedia Journalism designation (and I've heard no complaints from these majors), or they have an Integrated Marketing Communication designation, which is Simpson's iteration of public relations, and it's the major from which I'm hearing the bitching. Yeah, I said it, and now I'm going to tell you to quit your bitching.

I've talked with several of my colleagues about it, and we all remain amazed that these students believe they can get through a degree in Communication and Media Studies with little or no writing required of them. I was told by the faculty member who works most closely with IMC students they expect they will graduate and immediately become account or marketing managers, and therefore don't need to know how to write. I guess they've not bothered to do any research whatsoever into their chosen careers and read the job descriptions, every one of which lists "excellent oral and WRITTEN communication skills" as the top job requirement. I wonder what they consider "written communication skills" to entail? Their Facebook posts, most of which are grammatically incorrect? Their drunk Tweets sent at 2 a.m. from The Zoo Bar? The text messages they send nonstop before, during and after class?

It's a puzzle. I run a Twitter feed called @comminternships, where I tweet and retweet dozens of internship and entry-level communication jobs -- most of which are in the field of public relations -- every day. I read every job description I tweet, so to ensure that the information I send out is real and not some kind of spam that's slipped through the cracks. I've never seen one that doesn't strongly emphasize the need for the student not only to have the writing skills, he or she also needs the proof those skills exist. In other words, there better be a portfolio of written work.

I recognize that there will always be a group of students who, for whatever reason, just don't get it. But for the love of God, if you declare yourself a communication major, you should, at the very least, be prepared to write. Otherwise, I think it's time to find a new major.