I can recall a time, not so long ago, when I sat in a comfortable, sunlit classroom in the bowels of Rockwell Hall. High-noon, if you were curious. It was my very first class of my first day of college. I was terribly excited, and also nervous. I expected to be overwhelmed by the brilliance of my professor; I expected he or she to have in us a spell-bound audience; I expected to be challenged intellectually and maybe even physically by the demands of college coursework. By December, I was sure I’d have the confidence to tackle any topic.
What I got, instead, was Thinking & Writing. Most of my fellow classmates were thinking more about lunch than about textual analysis. Some were gazing out the windows. A boy picked his nose. The girl in front of me turned around and abruptly (and, if I do say, un-romantically) asked me for my number. I think the kid behind me was asleep. It was not the rip-roaring start to my college career that I had expected.
Looking back, though, I learned a lot in Thinking & Writing, and not just how to escape from uncomfortable social interactions. You don’t realize it until after its over (if you realize it at all), but Thinking & Writing, and its companion course, Imaginative Lit, really help you get your head straight for what’s ahead in your college career. See, here’s the dirty secret about college — all it really does, in the end, is teach you how to read.
If that sounds flippant, you’re reading it wrong. That’s a really, really big deal. It teaches you how to slow down when you’re reading, to take careful notes, to ask questions of a given text, and to take into consideration an author’s conscious and unconscious biases. It teaches you how to turn your thoughts and reflections on a reading into a thoughtful, well-argued piece of writing. Hopefully, it breaks any bad writing habits you picked up in high school. It prepares you to write longer papers: you’ll go from freaking about 4-6 pages to, in the future, freaking out (slightly less) about 10, 15, or even 20 pages. Trust me.
You really can’t become a better writer until you become a better reader, and that’s the crux of those two classes. In any profession, and life at large, being able to read critically is incredibly important, especially in a Liberal Arts field. You have the opportunity to develop your reading and writing skills before you get into the meatier, more writing-intensive years of your program. Use it wisely.