Staff Editorial: INTD 105 should focus on writing skills, not content

Geneseo, an institution that prides itself on a strong liberal arts curriculum, promises to produce students who, regardless of major, are excellent writers.

The problem, though, is that there are many students here who lack the high-level technical writing skills prospective employers and graduate schools expect. The opportunity to augment the writing skills of Geneseo students lies in the focus and methodology of the INTD 105 requirement.

INTD 105 is a writing seminar that can currently be taught by basically any professor from any department. This is both a strength and a weakness.

The fact that INTD 105 professors come from all academic departments is a strength because freshmen who take the course are exposed to subject areas that they may not have ever explored otherwise – a core characteristic of a strong liberal arts education.

It is a weakness, though, because INTD 105 classes, according to the testimony of some students, sometimes focus more heavily on the content of reading materials than on mastery of writing skills.

An INTD 105 course taught by an anthropology professor should be a writing course that utilizes readings and concepts within the field of anthropology, not an anthropology course with a writing component.

Students should leave INTD 105 courses with the ability to write an exploratory thesis that uses standard English grammar, carefully considers diction and effectively interweaves analysis with evidence. Many Lamron writers have never even been asked to diagram the grammatical structure of a sentence, and we believe that the lack of a comprehensive understanding of basic tenets of grammar is a major disadvantage to anyone seeking advancement in academic or professional settings.

An INTD 105 course that concentrates on technical writing skills would hold students to higher standards, but it would also require more of professors.

Professors seeking to teach an INTD 105 section should explicitly demonstrate strong technical writing skills. Not every Geneseo professor is a flawless speller or a master of grammar – and that's perfectly fine. But those professors should not be teaching INTD 105.

Ideally, and this is probably the case in a large majority of sections, the instructors who teach INTD 105 will be those with the best writing skills. We encourage INTD 105 lecturers to focus their energies on teaching those skills rather than analyzing a topic of personal interest.

Give us a few sentences to diagram. We promise we'll only complain the first few dozen times.