Students and faculty weigh in on English 110 inconsistencies
The English 110 program is not standardized for everyone. Every student has a different experience and that can be a major problem in the long run.
Juliette Lynch, a sophomore biology education major, is not one of those students. She is in the honors program, where students get to choose which English 110 class they want to take, unlike non-honors students who are randomly placed in their sections. Lynch said she took a class on YouTube videos and learned that it is possible to analyze any online video like a written piece of work.
Honors students also take a colloquium class, which is not an English class, but requires a great deal of reading and writing. Lynch said that even though it was not specifically an English class, she got a lot out of it because the professor was a hard grader and cared about the students’ writing, rather than content.
“I think writing isn’t valued enough,” Lynch said. “Everyone is pushing math and science. No matter how good at math and science you are, it’s really your writing that shows your intelligence. How well you write is how well you communicate and form your ideas.”
Lynch said she wishes the university required researched-based English classes, because that’s what she will need in the future. She said science is about presenting research and explaining the thought behind an experiment. Without the ability to convey the thought behind their research, scientists won’t be successful, she said.
John Ernest, the chair of the English department, said he knows English is a complicated subject. To put it into perspective: there are 200 sections of English 110 for 4,000 students a year, which is a real logistical problem. Ernest said it’s hard for students to care about a required class and the English department understands that. Therefore the program has been going through revamping for a few years now, he said.
The department hired two experts, Melissa Ianetta and Joseph Harris, to tackle the organization and structure of English 110 and to ensure the best professors are teaching the classes.
Professors and students alike have talked about the benefit of mixing different skill levels in the classroom. Ernest believes students at a lower skill level can benefit from the help of someone more advanced. Meanwhile, other parts of an advanced student’s skills could be tested, such as their editing abilities. He also mentions that there is no easy way to evaluate writing, like there is with math and science.
“[It’s] everybody’s job to teach someone how to write,” Ernest said. He says that it is not only the English department’s job to teach and hold students accountable for their writing. If other departments focused on students writing too, then it would make for more successful alumni in the future.
“No matter what profession you go into, an English major thrives,” he said. “The difference is working for other people versus people working for you. One’s career is going to change three to four times in a life and you’re going to need a lot of the skills of an English major.”
Even though Ernest is the head of the department, he knows writing is tough.
“No one likes to feel foolish,” he said.
Social media makes it so that people are writing all the time, but not in a formal way. It’s becoming harder to differentiate between the two styles, he said.
His advice is to “get over that and learn how to write,” he said.