Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing the most amount of writing ever done in my life, which should not have some as a surprise considering that I’m getting a Masters of Communication. But so far, I’ve noticed something that, in my opinion, is lacking in the curriculum: the spoken word.
Communication can be in a wide array of forms, from formal academic writing to casual conversations to body language and the interpretation of actions. For the vast majority of human history, verbal communication has been the primary means by information is transmitted. It has only been in the last several centuries that the written word has overtaken the spoken.
But beyond overtaking the spoken word in academic and knowledge-based transfers, it has now, in some circles, transcended the spoken in day-to-day, interpersonal interactions. Which is not something that I’m commenting on, but rather I’m setting that as the baseline for what’s happening whether we like it or not. The implication is that Millennials are not naturally learning advanced verbal communication skills. We are growing up in an era where we are used to expressing our thoughts written, from ubiquitous school papers, to personal statements, to 140 character Tweets.
This should be a gap that is covered in a Communications program, particularly at the Masters level. The irony is that, as Comm programs increasingly focus on writing skills, societal trends are moving towards learning via visual and auditory means (think of how much more likely you are to watch a YouTube how-to than read a manual). What this is leading to is communications professionals who can write all day, but don’t present in an effective manner. I’ve seen this recently with my interactions within the College of Communications and Information Sciences. Meaningful academic discussions and the ability to verbally problem-solve are nearly non-existent. I mean, my Communication Theory class is online relying solely on written discussion boards, textbook readings, and written papers.
Come on academia, let’s work on rounding out Communication professionals, so that when a reporter confronts them, the verbal statement is as clean and precise as if it were written and edited for hours.