Why is English compulsory at school?


by VertexOperator
Tags: compulsory, english, school
micromass
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#109
Feb19-13, 05:38 PM
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Quote Quote by Tosh5457 View Post
I agree with you on the other parts, but I don't understand how does that have to do with democratic education? I don't think most students are capable of making good decisions about what they should be educated. One thing that would happen is that schooling would be dumbed down so fast, because most students just want to do the less they can (and I include myself in this one when I was a high school student, but at least I realized the importance of education) and don't really realize the importance of education.
Like I said: it only works if both the students and the teachers are motivated. So leaving students completely free is probably not a very good idea, unless they are really responsible. A better thing would be to force them to do something worthwhile, but to let them choose what it is they do (from a certain number of options).

The hard part is to get the student motivated to learn something. Once you accomplished that, he won't take the lazy route. In a standard school system, teachers have to teach everybody. So they can't take out time for 1 vs 1 teaching and for motivating all the students. But maybe motivating students is much easier in a nonstandard environment.

I'm not an expert on it, so I'm just saying what I think here.
Travis_King
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#110
Feb19-13, 05:52 PM
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1. The vast majority of children (even up through high school aged) don't know what they want to do as a career.

2. Money. Programs cost money for teachers, classroom space, and learning materials, among other things. There are many highschools and even middle schools which have implemented, or plan to implement, curricula for engineering, business, psychology, the arts, and more. This, I think is a great thing, and I'm sure you Literature-naysayers would agree, given the common themes being thrown out here However, they are high level (as in, in engineering you'll learn electronics, mechanisms, civil, etc. Rather than just one field), and even the engineering ones typically don't rid you of those pesky english courses unless, maybe, you are in a private tech school, because these classes teach you...

3. Critical thinking. Maybe Scotty Fitzgerald simply liked the name Daisy when he was naming Gatsby's obsession. But your 8th grade english teacher isn't going to hear that for a moment. Discussion about literature give us practice at looking at things from many angles. It allows us to view things from other peoples perspectives, so that we might apply that in our dealings with other people. I thought Bartleby was a right jerk, and probably could have left the story at that, but I wrote an 8 page paper on how he compared to Sisyphus. It is an excercise in examining every aspect of the limited data one has in front of him and drawing as many correlations and conclusions as possible while remaining coherent and consistent.

4. They also get you writing. Most children and teens don't write for fun and only do so when they are given assignments. Most classes have you write reports, and I think it has been a growing trend that teachers in other disciplines are becoming more critical of students' writing, but no one scrutinizes the quality of one's papers more strictly than English teachers. This is a good thing. Even with 12 years of learning grammar and writing styles, the quality of many people's writing is dreadful.

5. If nothing else, it's practice with the tedious. Every career has things that are tedious, classes in which you are not fully engaged emotionally yet nonetheless require you to put in effort teach you how to do good work even if you aren't interested in it.
FreeMitya
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#111
Feb19-13, 08:19 PM
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Quote Quote by micromass View Post
Another thing I don't understand is why literature and poetry are held to such a high regard. Those topics are usually taught in high school. But what about music or movies?? Are they not culturally refined enough to discuss in the classroom?

I'm sure Shakespeare is brilliant. But I personally feel more emotional after listening to classic rock or after watching movies such as Lord of the Rings. But somehow, those things never end up being taught in schools. Rather, we are forced to read and analyze poems that we don't really care about.

I guess I'm saying that art is a very relative thing. Students should be taught to appreciate and understand art. If the students think that metal music is art, then so be it. Nobody can say that Shakespeare is better than metal music. Because nobody can make objective statements about art.
Perhaps I can provide an explanation as to why I think certain art is chosen in academics. While I agree that it's impossible to determine objective value in art, there are certain artists and certain works that have endured. That is, they have been important enough to a large enough number of people over long periods of time.

Let's look at Shakespeare. He has been read, translated, and republished constantly in the ~400 years since he wrote. The academy has recognised the apparent universality of his writing as he has had a great deal of influence and many different people of many different cultures throughout many different historical contexts. Despite social change, he has maintained relevancy. While this doesn't necessarily prove anything, he is apparently more important to civilisation than, say, his contemporary, Ben Jonson, which is why the academy focuses more on Shakespeare. Though this system is not perfect, it's better than teachers following their personal taste, in my opinion.

Shakespeare's writing, for whatever reason, has demonstrated more importance to English literary tradition than any other writing, which is why he is usually the focus of literary studies regardless of the personal tastes of the person or people designing the curricula. To quote the aforementioned Ben Jonson: "He was not of an age, but for all time!"

I would never presume to say which contemporary art will survive, but as to why contemporary artists aren't appreciated as much in the academy, I think it's partially because they're still young, and perhaps they haven't yet proven they've transcended context and achieved enduring universality in the eyes of academics. One thing I can say for certain is that not every artist working today will be appreciated in a few hundred years, whether for better or worse.
FreeMitya
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#112
Feb19-13, 11:58 PM
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Quote Quote by WannabeNewton View Post
And my ability to write extended essays about literary elements of a novel will rescue me in the event of such failure how exactly....?
Not you in particular (I guess I should have used the formal pronoun), but say a student started out in the sciences, decided it wasn't for him, but wanted to stay in university. If he only studied science in high school, what is he to do? The logical assumption is that a university wouldn't want a student in their humanities department who spent no time studying them in high school.

Students are getting into Harvard and Caltech science programs and going on to become successful scientists with the way the current curriculum is set up, and they are still learning from these English classes whether they think the information and skills are useful or not, so I really don't see what the big deal is. If you ask me, it's just complaining for the sake of complaining.

At the very least, constructing and enforcing a balanced curriculum relieves immature students of the responsibility that would come with choosing courses. It gives them a template for their education.
WannabeNewton
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#113
Feb20-13, 12:11 AM
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Quote Quote by FreeMitya View Post
If you ask me, it's just complaining for the sake of complaining.
Well of course it is mate . It's not like any of us can change it at this point if we wanted to or not, for better or for worse. People are just sharing their opinions / frustrations is all. Of course being forced to take literature classes isn't the end of the world but it is nice to see why it is mandatory in the first place for reasons outside of "because students are too young to know what they want to do". Anyways, just to give you a more positive stance on the matter: I can certainly say there have been many circumstances where I have enjoyed classroom discussions pertaining to certain novels. I can tell you right now that I found the ones coupled with Shakespeare's works excruciatingly painful and at times felt the poor man was rolling in his grave knowing what English teachers were doing to stretch the meanings and truths in his works to ridiculous extents. The ones I enjoyed greatly were exactly those related to the books I listed in reply to Astro above. On the other hand, I love any and all political discourses.
FreeMitya
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#114
Feb20-13, 12:22 AM
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Quote Quote by WannabeNewton View Post
Well of course it is mate . It's not like any of us can change it at this point if we wanted to or not, for better or for worse. People are just sharing their opinions / frustrations is all. Of course being forced to take literature classes isn't the end of the world but it is nice to see why it is mandatory in the first place for reasons outside of "because students are too young to know what they want to do". Anyways, just to give you a more positive stance on the matter: I can certainly say there have been many circumstances where I have enjoyed classroom discussions pertaining to certain novels. I can tell you right now that I found the ones coupled with Shakespeare's works excruciatingly painful and at times felt the poor man was rolling in his grave knowing what English teachers were doing to stretch the meanings and truths in his works to ridiculous extents. The ones I enjoyed greatly were exactly those related to the books I listed in reply to Astro above. On the other hand, I love any and all political discourses.
I hope I didn't come off as too hostile; text can be hard to infer.

Yes, it takes a good teacher to teach a good work. While some things are not worth discussion, some things certainly are, and a good teacher who has studied the work and the author long enough can judge what is important, and deep thought is a skill that should be passed on to the student. Unfortunately, as I've said before, good teachers are hard to come by these days, especially in literary studies.
WannabeNewton
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#115
Feb20-13, 12:29 AM
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Quote Quote by FreeMitya View Post
I hope I didn't come off as too hostile; text can be hard to infer.
Not at all.
Quote Quote by FreeMitya View Post
Yes, it takes a good teacher to teach a good work. While some things are not worth discussion, some things certainly are, and a good teacher who has studied the work and the author long enough can judge what is important, and deep thought is a skill that should be passed on to the student. Unfortunately, as I've said before, good teachers are hard to come by these days, especially in literary studies.
Not to mention me going to a science and math focused high school didn't help in that regard. All the good teachers were mainly in the physics, bio, and math departments. The chem department along with the English department had horrible teachers (interestingly enough the history / politics department had great teachers but they were few in number).
AnTiFreeze3
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#116
Feb20-13, 08:06 PM
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English goes well for me when I have a decent teacher who is more liberal with how he/she teaches. Last year I really enjoyed my English 10 class because our teacher let us discuss whatever book we were reading as a class. This allowed us, as students, to give our thoughts on the book, or any interesting observations that we found, without any intrusion or pointless comments from teachers.

Conversely, this year, my British Literature teacher feels the need to give her own idea as to what went on in any given part of the book after a student makes a comment:

Student: "I think it's interesting how Hamlet's situation has become better as the play progresses, yet Ophelia has become more and more depressed."

Moronic Teacher: "Oh yes yes yes [one minute of ridiculous bantering]. In FACT, I would even go so far as to say that Ophelia is the most opressed character in the entire play!"

Class: *Is silent because the discussion is meant to be for students to convey their interpretations of the literature, not for the teacher to show off the fact that, yes, she has in fact read the play 20+ times in the duration of her career.*

That would almost be like a student in a math class excitedly telling his teacher that he has almost found the solution after quite some thought, and then the math teacher blurts out what the answer is, and how to get there, thus entirely ruining any further progress that the student could make, because now the solution has been revealed.

/rant


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