The English Writing Major – Thoughts
Now that the English department is offering the English writing major, I think it’s worth stopping to think about the applications for this, as well as the traditional English major.
I’ve written before about the applications of an English major for both job prospects, and for having an impact on the world. Writing is, I think, about as valuable a skill as one can have. It prepares people for a multitude of jobs, and can change hearts and minds in ways that many other skills cannot. Further, the more experience with Critical Theory I get, the more I see English as practice for flexible thinking. Wrapping minds around approaching the same text from an number of direction teaches people how to think creatively from many perspectives.
And so I see the English writing major as allowing people to choose more specifically which of these important skills they wish to specialize in. The writing major enables a honing of writing skills that the English major can only passively encourage. However, the flip side is that the English writing major will likely only passively create the kind of flexible, critical thinking that an English major fosters so well. That is while one may learn how to write in many different styles, genres or voices, it may not as directly teach the many critical styles and movements that a more traditional course would take. Critical writing for English classes requires thinking from foreign points of view (feminism for men, Marxism in a capitalist society, etc.) And even if these don’t inspire passion, they do help to see the world in challenging new ways. Writing from different points of views, in different styles and forms will likely expand people’s critical thinking skills, but not so directly as writing analysis papers from many different perspectives does. Trying to write from different points of view can expand perceptions, but in that may be a chosen path within writing, rather than a requirement the way it is in critical theory and other traditional English classes.
While ideally both of these skills would be nurtured in equal measure, the reality is that only so much learning can happen in (give or take) four short years of study. Given the limits of time, money and energy, the ability to choose which of these vital paths one will take is surely a valuable improvement.