English Composition: Vital to the Health of Higher Education

Part 1.

This new semester is sort of like the plants on my balcony. Over the summer, I told myself, “Screw it! I’m going to save my plants!” 

It all started with how dirty and messy the balcony was. I finally cleaned it, got rid of the useless/broken junk, organized our swimming pool and plant stuff on shelves, swept up all the old pieces of dog toys and realized that what was really doing damage to the ambiance of our balcony with its swimming pool/palm tree view was the plants. They were only half green. Each had some part of its leaves browned and dried out. So, they weren’t dead, but they weren’t very healthy either. That’s when something came over me: “What a hypocrite I am to own half-singed plants!” Here I was claiming to be an environmentalist and a humanitarian, but only half caring for these plants that count 100% on me. I made myself sick.

Since my decision to save the plants, I’m proud to say that they are now bright green. I first repotted them and then looked some info up online about why the tips of people’s plants’ leaves turn brown. Additionally, I am consciously making the effort to water them, keep their soil fresh and pretty as well as check in on them at least every other day; they are green and pert.

Why English Composition is vital to the health of higher ed

This is how I feel now at the start of Fall 2015 semester, repotted, healthy and hydrated. First, there’s the office space I now have (which replaced the rolling suitcase I hauled around when I was an adjunct). Then there’s being around the freshly minted adults (aka “college kids”) which are not unlike the newest sprouts on my balcony and one tiny change of habit, being able to carry a water bottle around with me everywhere. Before, I hardly ever had any free hands. It was the rolling suitcase, the lunch bag, the stuff that I couldn’t fit in the suitcase and on super crazy days, an umbrella too. I had to carry those…as a student might say, “like everywhere!” Now I have this one free hand that can carry the water bottle for me with no problem. I stay hydrated happily.

Part 2.

In regards to not only the health of one’s physical body, but also in regards to the health of one’s higher education, nothing is more vital than English Composition. (“That’s a mighty big sentence for a little lady”). There’s no hyperbole in my statement. English Composition is vital to the health of higher ed.

Comp (English Composition) teaches the students how to think critically, how to recognize critical issues in present day society and how to convey their own critical thoughts. It surprises me how little they know when they first start taking my Comp class. Many struggle with seeing cultural, linguistic, historical or behavioral patterns. And most recently, failing to utilize any detail at all in their writing and/or class discussions that call for descriptions, analysis and/or persuasion (use of evidence too). I wonder: If you don’t notice patterns, how will you ever catch fraudulent activity in your business, in your life? Or just the opposite, if you can’t see patterns, how will you foresee points of opportunity on the way? If you don’t use details, how will you notice anything at all generally? How will you take delight in small pleasures? How will you pick up on hidden clues that provide big answers? How will you criticize or compliment? How will you captivate? Where will your charisma come from?

What’s most ironic about the pattern that I’m noticing, is that these incoming little geniuses (seriously) are lacking in street smarts. To be street smart means to practice, with agility, effective survival skills, to be able to tell when you’re being duped, to improvise and charm, to avoid danger and to seek opportunity (however small). All of these street smarts grow from critical thinking, strong observation skills, and an ability to strategize. Book smart is very good, but how does it ensure survival?

Even in the most successful and critically acclaimed philanthropic companies, we find fraud or misleading information. Unlike many other general ed classes that stem from pure knowledge, accurate comprehension and/or reliable formulas, Comp requires individual thinking, the ability to communicate clearly as well as contemporarily. Comp calls repeatedly for the use of strategy. Comp, though “only” another general ed, allows students to find confidence in their individual voices, to look around closely at anything, to create. From Comp, they evolve much more able to believe in their own ideas with much sharper observational skills and more experience with innovation.

Many, many things are not what they seem to be not only in rhetorical presentations but also in real life. Comp offers a class for analysis, metacognition contemporary awareness. It’s only with critical thinking and, just as importantly, being able to communicate that critical thinking will students be able to gain the most from their Higher Educatios and also from their lives in general. Without Comp or the skills that Comp offers, the absorption of every dictum would occur without any questioning, challenging, nor would there exist the innovation of new dictums.

Suggested Further Reading: Why Do So Many Gen Zers Seem to Lack That Old-Fashioned ‘Critical Thinking?’


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