Communicating effectively is the linchpin of success in our lives. No matter the field you are working toward or talents you have, this is an irrefutable fact. To reach the height of influence in any profession requires the ability to illustrate your knowledge, ideas and opinions — and the ability to defend them when challenged.
If you mentioned this to a student or tenured professional, they would probably agree with the basic premise. And yet, both students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin allow for the culture to dismiss it, relegating communications to a prerequisite. The intention behind the placement of the class understandably was to give every kid the fundamentals necessary for the rest of college.
Unfortunately, these classes are viewed as little more than a stepping stone, a necessary evil by a majority of its enrollees. And while it is easy to lay the blame for this at the feet of the kids in the classes, the structure of the courses makes it easy to understand why student interest is low. Ultimately, people respond to things that interest them, and a catch-all general prerequisite might not be the best way to teach and reinforce something as important as communication.
The classes tend to have focus problems — emphasizing more traditional essay writing among other generic school writing assignments. It certainly seems like essay composition, resume development, strategic networking, memo delivery, business email practice and many other elements of real-world communication are left off the curriculum.
Additionally, the class structure and timing of its requirement means the enrolled population is largely freshman who (A) don’t yet know what path they want to pursue in college or (B) cannot find a fit between the material related to their major and what is covered in class. Building a foundation is important, yes, but if the subject matter is uninteresting to everyone and emphasizes only one aspect of communications, it is failing to accomplish this task.
These fundamental flaws mean a class just meant to be a general catch-all cannot exist successfully. Communications A and B requirements ought to be taken away, to be replaced solely with classes that can be taken later on in the college timeline, specifically tailored to the needs of a major. For more general things like resume creation and speech classes, let us have them offered only as an optional addition to the schedule, rather than a mandatory course which already proficient kids see as an obstacle. Those in the classes who need little practice on their speaking treat it as a joke. Who can blame them? They could be spending their time elsewhere, which damages the class for the rest.
Writing and public speaking are skills which translate everywhere in life and should be given the respect they deserve. The ability to convey your thinking means so much, and for a university asking for $55,000 from out of state freshmen like me, it comes across as apathetic and out of touch that all we have are general prerequisite classes that fails to achieve even its limited goals.
The obvious remedy is the easiest one, and steps should soon be taken to remove Communication A and B courses from the mandatory catalog to be replaced with beneficial, optional specific courses that can be taken down the line or any time.
Justin Lariviere ([email protected]) is a freshman studying communications and economics.