Two of the more-than-two consequences that comes with being a College of Arts and Sciences student at Miami that I have learned to accept are: 1) people will probably assume you are a Farmer student and 2) people will probably wonder why you are not a Farmer student. Though I do not why this is, CAS students tend to get overshadowed by the intersection of Patterson and High.
After spending 3 years in the CAS, it is hard to not notice the impact of this overshadowing. While there are certain benefits that come along with being a CAS student, the appeal of the benefits that come with the “Farmer School of Business” title drove me to investigate pursuing an entrepreneurship minor.
I will preface this by saying that I knew I did not actually want an entrepreneurship minor; I have happily been in the philosophy and English (creative writing) departments for my three years at Miami. That being said, “happily” does not necessarily mean “100 percent satisfied with everything all the time.” I had noticed my complaints of the CAS were often met with, “Oh, we don’t have that” when posed to longtime Farmer students, and I wanted to test the truth value of that statement.
One of the major consequences–probably the major consequence–that comes with being a creative writing student is that there is not one student on this campus that does not think creative writing courses are “easy A’s.” This should not come as a shock to anybody because it’s true. The only people I have met that haven’t succeeded in a writing course were people who straight up never came to class and/or didn’t do their work. Other than showing up breathing with your homework completed, you’re pretty much set.
There are a couple obvious issues with this circumstance. For starters, this sends the direct message that if you don’t have to put in effort, you shouldn’t while also directly disrespecting the department and the field.
Additionally, the students in the department are hurt, both by students who lack effort as well as by students who lack talent. One of the first things I noticed in my one-and-only-ever entrepreneurship course (ESP 101) is that every professor was honest about the selectivity and rigor of the program. While the rigor of creative writing programs is not as much of a concern, the question of selectivity is where I take up issue.
If you ever competed in a rec-league sport as a child, odds are you have received a participation ribbon or two in your lifetime. The issue that I’ve seen time and time again in the creative writing courses is similar to the issue of giving out participation ribbons insofar as it devalues and hurts those who actually excel in the subject. Additionally, this perpetuates the idea that failing is the single worst thing that can happen to a person (which it is not).
I believe part of this issue stems from the idea that creativity can’t be graded. I remember in elementary school being afraid that I would fail my art class because I could not (can not) paint, and my teacher told me that “there is no bad art!” and, “as long as you try, you’ll get an A.” Understandably, standards are and were probably lower for 9-year-olds, but even still, the idea that creativity can’t be bad and that quality is irrelevant simply doesn’t make sense.
The fact of the matter is, some people are not gifted in the creative arts. For some reason this statement never seems to sit well with people, but if one were to say “some people are not gifted in math,” no one would bat an eye. It is possible to write a poem or a story, have it be bad, and not really be able to make it good. Furthermore, it is possible to be able to make it good but not be able to keep up with your peers.
The first day of Entrepreneurship 101 we were all told that if any of us got up to the 201 level and if our professor didn’t think we had it in us, you would be cut from the program. Harsh, but necessary. Why should you be kept along for the ride if you keep falling out of the car?
Allowing students to take classes where they are falling behind helps no one, but for some reason there is not a whole lot of willingness to weed people out of creative writing classes who either don’t try or can’t keep up with the other students. If a student was really good at math courses up to the 200 level but constantly struggled beyond that, would they be allowed to stay in the program because they were trying or improving? I cannot see a scenario where a student failing to comprehend class after class would be allowed to stay.
Selectivity and holding students to their highest standard should not be an experience that is sought after in higher-education; it should simply be a product of the experience. While there is no shame in failure, there is shame in knowingly allowing failure to grow.