Are Writing Skills Essential?

I would not have believed it possible for a Michigan undergrad to graduate having written no more than three papers, until I talked with my friend in the College of Engineering. I was shocked, and couldn’t stop thinking about how wrong that is.

In the moments after our conversation I immediately began to pride myself on the skills that writing has allowed me to develop and on the value that writing has added to my studies. I scoffed at his grammar mistakes while editing the cover letter for his application to Deloitte Consulting, and prided myself on the momentary position of superiority I felt I had over him and all engineers who have thrown around the “LS & Play” line.

But why should I believe that being able to write well places me above anyone on any type of intellectual ranking? Critical thought and analysis of complex problems are among the core skills of every good engineer—of any good anything, really—and are skills that I believe would make the enforcement of writing classes for all undergrads justified.

But there is no set path to obtaining such skills, and no specific medium through which everyone should be able to apply them. Calculus and physics are not subjects that everyone needs to master, and good writing is not something that everyone needs know how to do. Respective roles in society have different purposes and require different minds to fulfill their functions. I spotted a small sticker walking down main Street the other day that seems to apply: “It is good to be reminded that each of us has a different dream.”

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