Thursday, February 01, 2007

Perspectives on Leisure

RLS 122. Perspectives on Leisure. Basic philosophical, historical, psychological and scientific foundations and developments in leisure and recreation theory; review of the cultural forces, institutions and theories that affect individuals and society. Prerequisite: Passing score on the WPE. 3 units.

This is an upper division class that is among one of many that may be taken to fulfill the “writing intensive” requirement at California State University, Sacramento. The section I’m enrolled in meets on Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. After attending the first session, I have mixed feelings about it. Lets us start with the negative…

There has been much discussion of the “dumbing down” of America. Presented for evidence to this claim is the dismal writing skills exhibited by college students. To remedy this problem, universities and colleges have adopted a number of measures to assure that its graduates posses at least rudimentary writing skills. One such program is called “Writing Across the Curriculum” and spawned the “writing intensive” requirement.

My major is essentially a dual major combining political science and journalism. At Sacramento State, political science is called “government,” but for all intents and purposes it’s the same thing. Virtually every government class has had a significant writing component, usually culminated by the ever-popular semester-end term paper. Added to the papers I’ve written for other classes outside my major... well, I’ve written a lot of term papers.

Then there’s the journalism component. What can I say? You won’t go very far in journalism if you can’t write. Period. Yet, not one single class offered in the journalism department is designated “writing intensive.” Not one. That is not to say that all of my journalism classmates could write well. There have been a number of starry-eyed freshmen who have come through just knowing they would be the next Brian Williams or Soledad O’Brien. But their writing was dismal and they soon found other pursuits.

I know how incredibly bad the writing skills of college students can be. I’ve witnessed it first-hand too many times. I am ever amazed how some of these students made it through high school English. It’s yet another testimony to the sorry state of our public school system. To further ensure graduates from Sacramento State and other California State University schools can write to a certain minimal standard, a “Writing Proficiency Exam” must be taken before the student’s second semester as a junior. They are given two or three chances to pass before being allowed to enroll in a remedial writing course that gets them around the requirement.

Then they can enroll in a “writing intensive” course like “Perspectives on Leisure.” The good news? This sounds like it will be a fun class. It sure won’t tax my writing ability, not much is expected. It’s not a “walk-through,” however. I’ll have to write, but since writing is what I do… And since group work is a key component, I might be in a position to help my classmates with their writing as well. Furthermore, I might even learn something. Indeed, I already have and ironically enough (this shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but it still does) it looks like it will dovetail neatly into some of the other things I have going on. I guess that if I have to satisfy this requirement, there could be less pleasant ways of doing it.


kenju said...

I think so many things dovetail neatly - and we are not expecting them to. At least that was something I noticed in college.

I know how badly some people write, even after being given a better than passing grade in high school. It is appalling what they are allowed to get away with and obviously it is causing problems for higher education. I don't know what the answer is - but I think we can start by requiring more and making sure that teachers don't allow someone to pass through the system if they aren't up to par.

Michele sent me.

Anonymous said...

Ten bucks says you will end up truly enjoying this class :)

Anonymous said...

I posted earlier, but I have trouble with blogger on my work computer. Anywhoo, I completely agree with you about the sad state of the education system in this country. And I think that the class title is a little deceptive; it sounds like it's going to be a cakewalk, but then the description is intense!
Michele sent me!

Thumper said...

Wouldn't it be so much easier to have incoming freshmen and transfer students test for their writing abilities, and then place them in classes accordingly, assuring they have the chance to develop adequate writing skills?

They do it in the community colleges...perhaps the concept makes too much sense for the 4 year schools.

In any case, the class sounds like it might be fun.

Here via Michele this time :)

JMH said...

I was in a bar last night and at the bar sat a, you know, a reasonably attractive woman wearing a knit hat and reading a book. At a table nearby, I was with a friend who, after a couple of Bacardi and Cokes, began making dreamy eyes at me.

That made me uncomfortable.

Anyhow, a man, thirty-something, bearded, round, walked into the bar and sat next to the woman. He introduced himself as a neurolinguistics expert and told an anecdote. The gist of it was that brain patterns reveal that good spellers do two things: 1) visualize the word and 2) Feel whether it's spelled right or wrong. Feel, not think.

My comment is that writing is very much the same. Instead of teaching grammar, verb tenses, and the like, secondary schools should be teaching writing as simply visualizing and recording the inner monologue and then feeling whether it is right or wrong.

utenzi said...

The description of that course just depresses me, Mike. Sure, I'd have loved it when I was an undergrad but as an adult student who's paying for every credit hour I just want the classes to have real meaning. Obviously there's a dichotomy between the needs of the adult student and the average undergrad.

Michele sent me over to check out Perspectives on Leisure, Mike. Have fun in the class, that's what it's there for.

Snaggle Tooth said...

Just maybe it'll be a good team project- n you'll have a chance to blow them away with your skill!
I've had to drive group members to new heights before myself. Tough but possible-

Me, I'd rather study leisure with one more day off, but I didn't get it this week... (this IS my leisure)!

A Army Of (Cl)One said...

I went to the UC system here in CA. I had to take the writing exam and did not pass. This caused me to take two quarters of “Remedial English” (but it was not called that, cuz it was the freaking UC system) I graduated from a college prep private high school in which 98% of the folks went on to some kind of college. I still am a crappy writer even after all that.

I think the problem is less with the educational system and more with how many more people go to college today. Heck, they let me in and that shows there is/was a problem.

Anna said...

It is so nice when things fit together when you least expect it.

I hope that you do enjoy this class and that there will be things that you will be pleasantly surprised about waiting for you there.

I feel like that kids aren't writing enough. As we homeschool here that is a big part of their learning. It is the core....reading and writing. The more they do it the better it gets. I dont want my kids bogged down in memorizing mindless facts when they can be expressing themselves thorugh writing.

Does this make any sense? :) Have a good one Mike!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Michele sent me. As to dumbing down, it's happening here in the UK as well. I find it strange that the government is willing to scrap a system of education that they know works (and has done for at least 2 generations) for a new improved system, only to find that this new system doesn't work. Now they keep stumbling from one system to another, rather than revert back to the proven methods. Why? Because they don't want the populous to know they have screwed up again, as if we don't know already.
Sorry for the rant but this is one of my pet hates.

Melody said...

HI Mike, Michele sent me today!

One thing I can't understand over here in Australia is that to become a teacher - it's one of te most easiest courses to get into. Urgh! How does that work? If yo uask me, it should be made difficult to get into, afterall we are educating our future...

Bunny said...

Ooops, I think I've gone out of turn. no matter. just means I can look at more blogs.
I can't believe the standard of english in so many people.
It makes me laugh out loud.
I am not exempt though.
I think I was of sick from school when they taught the difference between there and their.

Michele sent me

awareness said...

Expect the it.

Illiteracy is rampant....Reading comprehension, writing and problem solving skills are tanking, and it's appalling.

When I was entering University, the issue was front and centre then. It still is!! What does it take for the public school system to get their curriculum in order ACROSS North America so we have students graduating with more than adequate writing skills and a love of reading?

The course will be what you make of it, as always. Because you have made a link to other learning and other see the value of it (the key point made in Adult Learning Theory......btw) I have a feeling you will enjoy it.

The countdown begins......... :)

Anonymous said...

belly time!!

Carli N. Wendell said...

I agree with you completely. I went to a school that accepted pretty much everybody who applied. I was shocked at the dismal writing skills of my classmates--and some were on the staff of the school newspaper with me! In one writing class, when the teacher was lamenting the lack of basic skills, one guy said that if the story is good, editors won't care about grammar and spelling. I wonder what he's doing now.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad universities are finally realizing that students were graduating without the ability to write and are changing that. A lot of what I read -- written by teachers, college students, professionals -- is pathetic and wouldn't have been given a passing grade in junior high school. I hope more university systems continue this trend.

I think the course you're taking sounds fascinating -- I'll be anxious to know how you like it!

Anonymous said...

That IS odd, actually. Universities should have some sort of "um, excuse me, but my major DOES require lots of writing, thanks, so can I just skip this requirement?" option available.

Oh, well. At least it doesn't seem like it will be too annoying. Hi from Michele's - here's hoping the class doesn't suck. :)

rosemary said...

Hi, here via Michele. I returned to school after 3 children. Graduated from HS in '62, MtSAC in 1978 and BSN in '81. Managed to get to master's prep...but took a great job and then schooling was for fun. School, as in life many frogs do you have to kiss? Some classes you just have to get through. Will read more of your blogs

Pat said...

Hi Mike. Michele sent me but i sort of jumped the queue but came anyway. Here in the UK we have the same problems of people verging on illiteracy having been through the systen and sometimes at university. It's very sad.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Hey Mike...I don't get the connection between PERSPECTIVES ON LEISURE and Intensive Writing....Hmmmmmm, Am I missing something here?
Leisure and intewnsive writing just seem so at odds to me...But then, I have never understood much about a lot of the courses that are available to one in college....

ƒåυνέ said...

I'm a firm believer in 'silver linings'; glad to see you found some.

Here from Michele's

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

hi mike

sounds an interesting venture - one with unexpected gems

all the brits that have commented have said what i wanted - that we have the same problem - that few people can write anymore, and that's a tragedy...

thankfully there are one or two each side of the pond out there in blogland who still cut it...

Unknown said...

I taught writing for 10 years at Northeastern University in Boston and you are so right about the poor writing skills seen in college students. Some of my students were so unable to write a cohesive sentence that the University had a type of writing workshop that they had to take before they could even begin a writing class.


I have kids in high school and they do a LOT of writing and I must say, it is very well taught. They are preparing for the SAT and our standardized tests, both of which now have writing components, so their English teachers teach them paragraph by paragraph how to write a cohesive paper. It's a real blessing for them, although they don't much like it.

Here via Michele

Jean-Luc Picard said...

There always seems examples of 'dumbing down' everywhere/

Jean-Luc Picard said...

BTW, Michele sent me here.

Anonymous said...

Hey there... Hi from Michele's!

You know, when I first started reading your entry, I thought you were making it up and preparing to take us on a journey of fanciful fake college offerings.

When I realized you were, in fact, serious, I had to go back and re-read the synopsis.

I am amazed by the general lack of basic skills amoung high school and college students and further amazed by this attempt to get them through in spite of the lack.

If nothing else, this is just one more advertisement for reading and writing with your children, isn't it?

I'm glad you see the postive side (though you didn't lable it as positive - nudge, nudge, wink, wink) of being able to help your fellow classmates. Now what we will want to know is if you learn a new way to relax. If you do that, then I'll want to read your term paper!

Catherine said...

It does seem strange that none of the journalism classes are designated "writing intensive". Judging by the title though, this class could be really interesting, if taught will. I hope you enjoy it.
Michele sent me

Unknown said...

hello, michele sent me.
i still THINK about college, but I figure I have been away too long.

Unknown said...

Another great post.

When I was teaching in the elementary school system a couple of years ago, the main initiative of our school was 'writing across the curriculum'. From a teacher's point of view, writing is absolutely essential--not just in Language Arts class, but in Math, Science, and Social Studies, as well.

In my particular school, I was the 'writing specialist'; if a student was having trouble writing, he or she was put in my class. I had them writing by the end of the first semester.

I won't go into how I got the students to write, but it was my favorite job in the world. Getting a student in touch with his or her voice was the major source of inspiration during my teaching years.

I could really go on here. Man, you've ruffled my feathers with this post, Mike. I worked in the NYC school system before moving out here to New Jersey. I can't figure out for the life of me how the public school system can be fixed, but I am damn sure that most of the teachers I've worked with are not to blame. I was fortunate to work in a school where every single teacher was highly qualified (even by G W Bush's standardized measures), and they weren't afraid to go the extra mile for their students. I worked in a very supressed, low income part of New Jersey. Most kids had one parent--who worked. Some kids wore the same clothes all of the time. One time, I had to call a parent in to tell her to bathe her child so the other kids don't make fun of her son's smell. Another time, I had to ask a parent why she didn't give her daughter lunch anymore. She replied, "I don't know what she likes to eat! I made her turkey sandwiches and she won't eat them!" The student replied, "But I don't LIKE turkey." The mother did not have the sense to ask her daughter what she DID like to eat. I'm not joking. It sounds unreal, but it's the truth. Ultimately, the student ended up eating peanut butter supplied by the guidance counselor of the school. I have millions of stories like this: and people wonder what is wrong with the school system. Parents need to be taught how to be parents. (Not all of them, of course. Most of the parents in my hometown are wonderful, fit parents. And most of the students excel in school and after school activities. You can't tell me that parenting skills aren't linked to a child's success in school, or anywhere else.

Okay. I've said my piece.

Please disregard any typos. I'm on the highest amount of pain killers that can be prescribed, and I'm not going to spend my precious time online proofreading. Hey, you might say, "What kind of a teacher is that!" Well, I'm letting you know right off the bat that this is my rough draft! I know what a stickler you are for grammar! ;)

Love ya,

canwag said...

After having taken a couple of online writing workshops with the intent of receiving some constructive feedback on my writing, I'm learning, to my chagrin, that despite what most people say about desiring constructive criticism, few of them actually do. I critiqued one woman's work and told her, as gently as I could, to watch her run-on sentences. She slammed me to the group administrator and I actually received a warning for flaming! The only criticism they want to hear is "Good job! You write great!" Be careful, Mike - it's a slippery slope. :)

Shephard said...

You have such a great attitude, and I love that it ocurred to you that you could help fellow students with their writing.

And I also wanted to say about your comment on my post... how complementary it was to the message of the post. It's so true how logic can be just as much a deterrent (or tool) for avoiding simpler truths.