My blog generates frequent comments, though they’ve never shown up here. Most often they’re posted on Facebook. Sometimes, they arrive in my private email box. A few days ago, I received what I felt was a powerful response to my Working Through the Struggle post. That’s the one where I quoted award-winning novelist Joe O’Connell. The response was so powerful that I asked its author if I could post the comment here. I was told yes. So, here it is.
“A few years ago I started an alternative teaching certification program so I could be an English teacher. My big thing in the classroom was going to be making those kids write something every day. Writing is that important and students are not being taught the skills necessary to succeed in freshman-level composition classes. And why is this?
1. “Name the two school subjects that consistently receive government funding and attention from the media? Science and mathematics.
2. “Name two careers that are consistently portrayed in the media as being glamorous? Scientists and engineers.
3. “Name two careers that pay the highest salaries to graduating college seniors? Scientists and engineers.
“Now compare that to the way writers and other creative-types are portrayed. It’s a little depressing, especially when it is we creative-types that the scientists and engineers approach to create their business ad campaigns or write their press releases. Are we trying to be subversive? Counter to the culture? Our little way of raging against the Man? Well, maybe we’ve been doing it a little too well. Maybe we need to light the fires under our own ‘hey, ho, look at us creative types go!’ kind of marketing campaign. A ‘where would the world be without journalists or writers?’ type of campaign?
“Do we minimize our contribution to society because for so long we have been made to feel less-than-intelligent due to our lackluster math skills or inability to understand the human genome?
“Now don’t get me wrong, I love science and the fact that there are people that spend their entire life in the pursuit of science excellence. I know several scientists and engineers that write extremely well and sell value in a well-turned phrase. They also contribute significantly to the advancement of humanity and all that jazz. However, the last time I checked, so did Shakespeare, Alcott, Cather, Shaw, Twain, and thousands of other writers.
“Why then do I have college grad students approach me seeking guidance on what makes a good writer or what makes a good article? One grad student in particular comes to mind. He attends a very prestigious*, highly regarded East Coast university, is a native speaker and is a product of American public school system, yet he struggles to write a simple article. Writing clearly makes him, a math god, uncomfortable. And you know what? When the people in power are uncomfortable with doing something, then that something (writing, journalism, etc.) struggles.
“One last story before I go. When I was in college, my roommate was an engineering major. She used to give me hell for wasting my time with an English degree, said that technical writing was a joke. After graduating, she went to work for one of the major oil and gas exploration companies*, making near six-figures when they started. Ten years went by before we spoke again.
“Imagine her astonishment when she learned that I, a lowly technical writer with my joke of a degree, was working offshore doing the type of work that she dreamed of doing while in college. She now sits in an office all day, every day. Me? I do the same, but every once in a while I get to go offshore and see and do some pretty amazing stuff. Stuff that is pretty darn close to ‘cutting edge’ as one can get without getting cut. So, yeah, it goes to show that a liberal arts education makes you a lot more open-minded to trying new things than the one-track mind of an engineer.
“I’ll get off my soapbox now. You have a great way of hitting all the right buttons.”
By the way, the author of the preceding comment loved Joe’s suggestion of creating a vision board “to get the daydreams flowing.” For more information on that, click here.
I’d also like to note that I love comments. Feel free to leave them here, post them on Facebook, or send them to me privately. But especially feel free to leave them here.
* I was told the name of the “very prestigious” university and the name of the “major” oil and gas company. Indeed, it is a “very prestigious” university, and it is a “major” oil and gas company.