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Not to get all “in-my-day-I-walked-to-school-twelve-miles-barefoot-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways,” but when I was a freshman, it was really difficult to get writing help. I had to creep around the seemingly abandoned School of Government at night, only to find an intimidating senior sitting at a desk in an awkward closet, with no apparent resources to help me besides a pen. I don’t even remember this one tutor session because I kept thinking about how the room would be the perfect place to lure in someone you wanted to kill. In the unpopular Writing Center of yesteryear, no one could hear you scream.
After I passed Phase Four, I no longer thought about Principia’s Writing Program – until I accepted a post-graduate internship in the Writing Center last April. While I was in school, the Writing Center instituted a training program that generated friendlier and more resourceful tutors, and the Center moved to a welcoming nook in the library. Nevertheless, the student population’s vague contempt for the Writing Center remained. By osmosis of groupthink, I remained uninterested. Or, maybe I eschewed the Writing Center because I have always loved writing. I was a Pilot columnist and Creative Writing major, but I figured the Writing Center was only for students who really struggled. Because, you know, the gym is only for non-athletes. A little late, but I now see the value in Principia’s Writing Center.
Writing is one of the most important skills you can cultivate in school. There are few opportunities you can chase effectively without writing. As you take your next steps in life, you’ll have to write a ton of cover letters and professional e-mails. Writing will be integral in your future job, no matter your chosen career path. All jobs will need people to write about new findings, new processes, and pleas begging for more funding, and sadly, your secretary can’t always do it. Let’s be real: it’s hard to get a job in which you have your own secretary if you never learned how to avoid run-ons. While using incorrect grammar in no way makes you an incompetent person, it can make you look like one on paper. Instead of fighting the sentiment, why not accept the help Principia provides you? Let’s talk about a few of Principia Writing Program myths.
MYTH #1: The Writing Program is just another example of a Principia eccentricity.
Principia is unique. Sometimes we cheer about it, and sometimes it makes us batty. Some people love Moral Reasoning and some people hate it. The same goes for our remote location. Sometimes as you’re scampering out of the opposite sex’s dorm at 11:59 PM, it can feel like everything about getting a Principia education – Writing Program included – is just a lot of extra work that kids at other colleges don’t have to endure! But writing is not unique to Prin. Most colleges have writing requirements because, actually, most colleges, like Principia, see that writing is really freaking important. The difference? Most schools require huge general freshman seminars, while Principia evaluates each student’s needs. Our writing-across- the-curriculum program is also designed to be field-specific. This type of program is on the rise in American colleges – Principia was one of the first schools to implement it in the 1970s. Pretty rad, y’all.
MYTH #2: The Writing Program is ridiculously confusing.
People seem to be constantly befuddled by Writing Program requirements. The system isn’t perfect, which is why it is being reformatted under semesters. Still, I am surprised by how many people get a letter from the Writing Center, wig out, and complain that it’s confusing, but they never actually read the fairly simple instructions. The Writing Center even has its very own personable and accessible coordinator who is always just an e-mail or phone call away.
MYTH #3: The Writing Center has no problem suspending students.
The Writing Center never wants to suspend anyone. Ever. It’s counter-intuitive to providing students a helpful learning environment. However, Principia doesn’t want students graduating without being able to demonstrate basic writing skills. Suspension isn’t even a punishment – it just means a student has to get better at writing before he can earn a degree, and there are no more quarters of school left for him to do it in. It’s an extreme exception to the rule.
Recently, rumors have been flying about the Writing Program as the switch to semesters approaches. I’d like to refer to Myth #2 to note that instead of rumoring, anyone can walk into the Writing Center and just ask. But perhaps publicly offering some information here would be helpful.
1. If you do not pass your Phase Four portfolio this quarter, you will basically continue the same submission process next year.
2. You will not be suspended if you have neglected to turn in your Phase Four this quarter. You will just have to submit a portfolio next year under the new system, which will offer fewer opportunities for submission.
3. There’s no loophole through the program (nor should you want one)!
Okay, the Writing Center pays me, but I mean all that I say. It’s a shame this department has such an odd reputation because it’s simply a group of educators who want to help students master a crucial life skill. Everyone can improve his or her writing. As a portfolio reader, I am constantly reminded that even the best writers have faults to fix. I can also recognize how struggling writers could make great progress through just one Revising and Editing class or a few trips to a tutor. So drop the ‘tude, accept the importance of writing, and use the resources given to you!