This is my final semester as an undergraduate. By the time the end of May rolls around, I will have completed another 15 units of higher education. However, I only need nine units (three of five courses) to graduate. Two are optional; one of them, Magazine Writing (JOUR-132), is within my major and another, Basic Techniques of Photography (PHOT 040), is very closely related. Of the three that are required, two are journalism classes. The remaining class is one that has thrown me for a loop. I’m usually pretty clear on how I feel on matters of principle, but this time - not so much.
There is a graduation requirement that I don’t quite understand. I know why it came to be, I know what its intended purpose is and I even agree that it perhaps has some merit - for some. The “writing intensive” course requirement simply means that to graduate, each student must take a course designated as “writing intensive.” Many departments, some somewhat unexpected, have them. Ironically enough, there are no journalism courses designated as “writing intensive.”
I knew about the requirement when I enrolled at Sacramento State. I was not too concerned, however, because I am a journalism major… government-journalism to be precise. I simply assumed that at least one of the classes in my major would be so designated. In fact, I figured most of them would be. Imagine my surprise when filling out my degree application. Add one more class to the spring schedule. Ok, fine - there was no way to wiggle out of the requirement, or if there was, it sure wasn’t worth the trouble. I’d just take the stupid class and be done. My selection…
Perspectives on Leisure (RLS 122); what could be easier? I figured if I were going to be forced to take a course that is intended to assure I have a rudimentary grasp of written English, I would take a class I could “phone in.” But I sure wasn’t going to like it. Perspectives on leisure sounds relaxing. My brief, unofficial, unscientific - and as it turned out - inaccurate research indicated that it would be a cakewalk. It meets once a week for two and one half hours. At two weeks in, I have invested five hours towards this required course.
I went into it with a resentment. I don’t feel that certain majors that are by their very nature “writing intensive” should be required to attend such a “menial” class. Did you sense the air of elitism? It was not by accident, that’s how I felt going into it. Although I know better than to outwardly display my disgust, I also know that I wasn’t going to like this class. Not one bit. I would just endure it damn it! I’d show them.
Imagine my surprise and dismay when I found myself leaving campus this evening with a smile on my face. I wasn’t supposed to like this class - it was supposed to be a waste of my time. One thing that I have learned through long and often painful experience is that if I’m having a good time, I might as well enjoy it. Sure, this class won’t tax my writing ability. In that respect I can put it on cruise control, but this class has a good deal of energy that I never expected.
The instructor has this infectious playfulness about him. I could only resist for so long. Besides the emphasis on writing simple and grammatically correct prose, the class has much to do with human interaction. There is a huge “activity” component. This evening we went into the aerobics gym and played these really, really stupid games. They’re of the icebreaker variety - the kind that are designed to break down interpersonal barriers and get people to interact with each other. I was just juvenile… I wanted to hate it. But I did it and actually found myself laughing, cheering on my group and genuinely having a good time.
So I stand corrected - sort of. I still maintain that if the intent is to guarantee a minimal level of writing proficiency, then some courses of study ought to be exempt. However, if the intent is to broaden the educational experience, then so be it. But call it something else… call it the “interacting intensive” requirement. For my part, I guess I’ll just try not to be so rigid and serious. After all, this is my last semester.