A Few Reasons You Should Brandish thy Pen!
By Marcus Del Valle
One of the earliest struggles that any of us City University of New York students face is that of the Intro to College Level Writing Course. Codified differently across the board, it is often a cause for rolled eyes, pounding migraines, and “f*** school” attitudes.
However, it is also one of the most important parts of any student’s academic and personal careers as the skill of great prose has spearheaded our world since before mass publishing. The classes that teach you the techniques of writing are some of your most important.
Rhetoric is everything.
Rhetoric is Law. Rhetoric is Justice. Rhetoric is the difference between the two. Rhetoric is the Declaration of Independence. Rhetoric is Comedy. Rhetoric is Faith. Rhetoric is Power.
It is the kind of power that allows an English student and SEEK Tutor, like myself, to write for a college publication and share my thoughts with my fellow students.
It is also the power to create a piece of writing that, once email and printed, has the ability to literally last forever.
Maybe even to motivate someone to write better. To write more. To learn more and to value that learning.
Students of low economic origin and first generation students, both like myself, have an opportunity at CUNY unlike other students for reasons including, but not limited to, learning in New York City at a low cost (possibly free through Financial Aid), access to a library larger than most University networks worldwide (information from Ivy League schools can be easily accessed), and diverse professors from all over the world (who can’t wait to teach in NYC), a CUNY education is very competitive despite what you might hear.
The historic mission of CUNY, as stated by lawyer Gustave Rosenberg of the Board of Higher Education, is “that in a democratic society, the higher reaches of education are not the exclusive privilege of an elite, but an opportunity and a necessity for all qualified citizens who desire it, regardless of race, creed, or color.”
This reminder, stated back in the 60’s, pointed to what CUNY has always stood for.
Years before this revolutionary way of educating, colored folk of many races of America and certain religious subscribers could be kept from getting an education.
In fact, in some states, it was illegal.
CUNY was established during the latter years of segregation and stood as a pinnacle of hope to many communities of color.
To them, education was the key to living a prosperous life and achieving freedom from various forms of oppression.
Leaders like Malcolm X agreed with these sentiments.
In an excerpt written by him, where he explains how he learned to read and write in prison, Malcolm X unpacks how educating himself was liberation. A sort of unshackling of himself.
“Between Mr. Muhammad’s teachings, my correspondence, my visitors, … and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned.
In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.”
While it is a difficult task – learning to wield language like a tool – it is one of the most important tasks there is.
The ability to wield a pen and wield it well, is a gift to the world. Cheesy, I know, but listen up!
We create culture and opportunity when we write well.
We fight against stereotypes when we write well. We open the minds of those younger than us when we write well. We deny the unfortunate current truth of white hegemony in academia when we create stories about ourselves.
In an era where college students today are constantly reminded that school is not the only way to “make it,” it is important to remember that college is not the focus. Education is.
Sure, Bill Gates dropped out of college, but did you know that everyone who works for him holds a Master’s Degree or higher? Most have a Ph.D.!
Artists like Jay Z, Pusha-T, Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, and many more have debated the importance of education and only one of them ever went to college.
However, they are all great writers!
The ability to write can change the fact that most books opened in class was written by a white European man.
Writing well can normalize and represent culture and gender as it truly and fluidly is.
Writing well can change the standard of education we have subscribed too since we kicked in the doors.
It can change the pathways of your life. I know it did for me, and I think it can for you.
So the next time English 111 gets you down just remember “The pen is mightier than the sword.”