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Writing Must Be Integral

MIT is not a liberal arts college. Nonetheless, it subscribes to a philosophy that encourages education on a broad level - including the general sciences, mathematics, humanities, and the arts - as a foundation for any specific course of study. In so doing, MIT recognizes that every graduate, regardless of his or her technical or scientific specialty, must be proficient in a wide variety of areas to ensure success. We could not agree more.

The discrimination of what constitutes a core curriculum is debatable. But recent action by the administration to amend the writing requirement forces us to question MIT's methods of including what we feel to be a fundamental and necessary skill for any MIT graduate.

The ability to write is the ability to communicate, something which is clearly a necessity in the modern age. Writing is a technique that should be incorporated into departmental education, not kept separate from it. The current Phase I and Phase II requirements stand only as academic hoops to be cleared. Writing courses like Expository Writing (21W.730) that can be used to complete Phase I are often regarded as token measures. Similarly, the proposed "writing practica" announced last month by the Committee on the Writing Requirement stand only to distance writing as a skill further from the mainstream of a student's workload.

We support Professor of Science and Writing Alan P. Lightman's assertion that "MIT at the present time does not give [its] students the writing and speaking skills necessary for professional success." This opinion is corroborated by staff of the Career Office, who cite deficient communication skills as a common complaint from recruiters. But we propose a revision that integrates writing more intimately, rather than relegating it to nominal add-on measures.

First off, MIT must do away with the fluff in the current writing program. Practica and mini-courses are not the answer. They serve only to weaken what should be viewed as a solid commitment. In the same vein, writing quotas, like those applied toward Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Distribution classes should be phased out.

To encourage students to value communicative writing as a skill, writing must be an extension of departmental work. The writing committee should work with individual departments to develop a rigorous program that promotes writing enhancement together with practical training. Writing should be included still in the HASS program, but it must not be isolated there.

Inevitably, we must exchange the knowledge we attain with our peers. Writing is a basic route to this end.

Copyright 19,95, The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on Tuesday.
Volume 116, Number 54.
This story appeared on page 4 .

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