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Improving The Writing Requirement

Each year approximately 15 to 20 percent of students fail the Freshman Essay Evaluation. These students currently receive recommendations that they enroll in an introductory writing class, but they aren’t required to take one. Starting next fall, however, the Institute will initiate a two year experimental program that will require these students to pass such a course in their freshman year. The Tech firmly believes this change is in the best interests of students who need extra writing help and strongly supports this decision.

Students generally recognize the weakness of MIT’s communications requirement. One of the the strongest criticisms of the Institute recorded in the 1998 Senior Survey was the lack of attention MIT paid to improving students’ communication skills. Many students come to MIT with the attitude that they should evade and find substitutes for writing classes, but they leave wishing that the Institute had forced them to write more regularly.

Anyone who believes writing is unimportant in today’s world is hopelessly mistaken. No matter what their future professions, students dearly need proper writing skills in today’s workforce. The verbal skills of most students graduating from high school are abysmal, and feeble Institute standards only exacerbate the problem. By enforcing this new requirement, MIT is working to insure that all of its students gain mastery of writing skills.

In addition, MIT should improve its introductory writing courses to bring the focus back to proper grammar, syntax, and diction. Though MIT has a strong core of writing faculty, it should hire more faculty to give students more personal attention and to show its committment to communications skills. Furthermore, to increase student interest, MIT should also expand the variety of writing courses it offers at all levels.

MIT needs to create a rigid structure that would force students to learn writing skills. Currently, students at MIT find that they can easily evade learning real communications skills only to discover their loss four years later. Emphasizing writing early in the game and taking steps to motivate student interest would benefit all parties involved. To this end, the new policy requiring those failing the FEE to take a writing class their freshman year is a small step in the right direction.