One of the newer parts of my job at the university, in addition to putting in 15+ hours at the writing center and TAing a hypermedia writing class, is leading study table sessions for honors students in their dorm cafeteria. Part of the freshman experience for honors students is living in an honors dorm. I would never know what that was like, but being there makes me realize how far I’ve come since my last dorm experience. In 1997 I was at Western Michigan University. I was in the midst of a deep depression and on the verge of failing out. I never went to class and spent most of my days sleeping and watching reruns of “Boy Meets World.” The only time I left my room was to go to the cafeteria. The cafeteria in the honors dorm bears a creepy similarity to my WMU dorm leading me to believe somewhere there is a master blueprint left over from some buffet restaurant in Florida that all universities use to build their cafeterias. So seven years later here I am a successful student once again and leading and helping honors students.
(insert appropriately vulgar hand motion toward everyone who told me I was a loser–and yes, that’s ALOT of hand motions.)
After my first couple of sessions though I have some observations. First, why are people majoring in science or math considered so much smarter than anyone else. On the first day of my musical theater workshop we went around and introduced ourselves and one of the girls said she was a math student and the prof said, “Oh, you must be smart then.” A guy with a PhD and several other advanced degrees was cowtowing to a student just because she could do advanced math. In that same room were people who have memorized hundreds of pages of sheet music over the years, people who sang in Latin, French, German, ands Spanish among others. People who have actually composed music. People who could see a sheet of music and either sing it or play it on the spot. I’d like to see a math or science person do that. And not in a lab by themselves, on stage in front of thousands of people.
Many of these honors students I was leading were science or math majors and they couldn’t write a coherent paper to save their lives. At the WC several times a day I hear people say “I just can’t write a paper.” Well I can write papers. Alot of papers. Papers on topics ranging from political unrest due to the drug war, to the use of Shakespeare illusions in “The Simpsons.” I can write papers in APA and MLA format. I can write long papers, short papers, term papers, research papers, and essays. I can also write fiction. Short fiction, long fiction, bad fiction and good fiction. I can write papers fast. I think the fastest I’ve ever done a paper is a five page paper about the Trojan War that I started an hour before it was due. And of course I got an A. But just because I can’t dissect a frog or do long division in my head somehow I’m not as intelligent as Susie Science? I think not.
We have several studies in the WC posted on our bulletin board that show the number one skill employer’s seek is good writing. Not the ability to detect all of the elements in a sludge ooze, or prove why Pi is not something best enjoyed with a cup of coffee and some ice cream. Employers want people who can write papers and according to the surveys, most people can’t write papers. Many more people have trouble writing papers than trouble doing math or science. But somehow just because this comes easily to me I’m an idiot. Well I may be an idiot, but I’m an idiot with the most marketable skill out there now. So when Susie Science is up for the Noble Prize she’s going to come to me to help her write her speech so shes doesn’t sound like a moron. And when Molly Math wins her Fields Medal she’s going to come to me to help translate her scribbles and numbers into a rousing speech. And when I need a math person? Come on, who needs a person for that? We’ve got calculators.