English as a compulsory subject

  1. As a student who does well in Science and Maths I come across the question all the time of why English is taught as a compuslory subject in yr 11 and 12 (In Australia). This is the only subject that is compulsory with maths not being compuslory anymore. Now I can understand the teaching of English if it involved things such as formal writing, proper resume writing, debating, spelling, grammer, punctuation etc. The teaching of these things stops after year 8 and is never taught again during the following high school years, the teaching is shifted towards the study of books such as "The Catcher In the Rye" or "Fahrenheit 451". We are taught to analyse texts and what they mean to us. We are made to do lenghty essays on a weekly basis explaining things such as "How does a postmodern view compare with the modernist view, include samples and quotes from at least 5 different texts". Students are marked on how well they analyse a text and are generally not marked down because of things such as spelling and punctuation. I put this question on a physics and maths forum as many people (me included) I know find English a useless subject to be taught in yrs 11 and 12 and should not be compulsory. I do not do to badly in English gaining 13th out of 50 but I feel that it is not necessary at all for the future career I wish to pursue. I am making an assumption that many people on this forum would have not excelled in English (not trying to say no-one did) and correct me if im wrong. My question is during school how did many of you get through doing English while still trying to focus on the subjects that you enjoyed such as Maths and Science. Also replies as to a purpose behind the compulsory teaching of the current English syllabus in yrs 11 and 12 in Australian schools or worldwide if this is the case elsewhere. Cheers
  2. jcsd
  3. Office_Shredder

    Office_Shredder 4,487
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    In America, you have to take biology, english, history, foreign language, and a whole host of mandatory classes, so don't expect to feel sympathy from any of us
  4. You don't think you'll ever need to communicate clearly in writing? Eh, don't worry, you've still got 4-10 years of school ahead of you to change your mind about that. :cool:

    On a related topic, your post here is much too long to be in a single paragraph, to the point that most people wouldn't attempt to read it in its present form.
  5. What did you mean by 4-10 years? Ive only got one year left and as for communicating clearly in writing as you can see I can not do that so well as it is and this is after years of schooling where I have gained well in English throughout. This is what I was aiming to say in my post, you can get very high marks in English talking about nothin when your not communicating efficiently. I was not requiring sympathy I was asking if anyone could answer me why it is compulsory in Australia. Cheers
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2006
  6. ShawnD

    ShawnD 953
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    I agree entirely when you say it's useless. Here in Canada you stop learning actual english at grade 8. Grades 9-12 are "how do you feel about...", which is clearly not the same as the study of a language. Rather than remove the course, I think it should be changed from an artsy waste of time to an actual english class. It should be based on extensive grammar rules you will only find in books. For example, are you aware "bring" and "take" differ based on the point of reference? Not many people do since it is not tought in any school.
    Bring vs Take is rule #3
  7. No education should be compulsory. Well, no, that's not accurate...

    No education can be compulsory. It's an impossibility. People only understand something when they choose to study, practice, and work with it.

    Only because learning is so valuable do people put up with compulsory systems.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2006
  8. There is absolutely no purpose for teaching English anymore as the syllabus stands right now. To pick out symbolic meaning that is speculative and might not have even been intended by the author himself/herself is irrelevant and plain rubbish. There is absolutely no penalty for bad spelling and grammatical shortcomings. I managed to barely scrape through in English, but there were people who were getting 80% and higher for having utterly disgusting writing.

    They would include as many polysyllabic words as possible in all their reports/speeches and these were often incorrectly used or pronounced incorrectly. Some examples of mispronounced words and misspelled words that I remember from the Dux of our year are:

    omnipotent: Pronounced as omni - potent
    compliment: Used when complement was the appropriate word (he did this all the time...in fact he wasn't aware that there was a word complement).
    Conscienscious: Don't know why he spelled conscientious like that, but he never got marked down for this.
    There: Used in place of they're or their. I've never seen it used in place of they're, but he managed that on numerous occasions. The most basic of mistakes...

    Those are just a couple of weird examples of how incredible the Dux of English was. English is in a serious need of an overhaul because what they are doing now is ridiculous. People are coming out of school with atrocious writing skills and they don't care to learn either. That's why the standards of editing have dropped now as well. So chances are, when you try and get your work improved, you might just as well have it returned with just as many errors.

    I also think that it is quite amazing that people believe it to be upper class to pronounce 'issue' as iss-u instead of ish-u and 'negotiate' as negociate instead of its proper pronunciation. I particularly don't like the sudden change in pronunciation of controversy because I see no reason for it. I also don't like that some people are pushing to drop the 'u' in words like favour, colour, etc...
    The common argument I hear for this is that it makes the spelling simpler, which isn't a valid argument in my opinion.

    Please don't mistake my comments for me trying to say that my English is great because I am well aware that I am a part of the group that has come out of school with atrocious writing skills. However, I am at least trying to fix this. So to answer your question I didn't really get through English...I struggled big time to do English on top of my other subjects. I also live in Australia though!!
  9. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,345
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    I have no clue what is going on in Australia, but it sounds to me like the English courses you are taking are not very rewarding and teach you little. That was not the case with my own high school experience. Years 11 and 12 were terrific in what I got out of my English classes. Constantly being made to analyze texts and write essays taught me to think critically, read carefully and closely, and to communicate clearly and effectively in writing, as well as how to simply construct a good argument.

    The reason these are compulsory and math and science are not (in the US, three years of math and two of science are compulsory for graduation, but you better take more if you plan on getting into a good university) is that these are skills that are vital regardless of what you go on to do in life, whereas the more specialized skills you would learn in a higher math class aren't exactly necessary. They can come in handy, sure, but heck, I remember a complaint from an MIT grad working at the CIA who claimed he had met two people in the entire White House that knew how to find the roots of a quadratic equation. Sad as it may be for the math buffs here, the reality is that you can get very far in life while knowing very little about anything beyond basic arithmetic. You cannot get very far, however, if you cannot put together a proper paragraph and understand the meaning of rhetorical and figurative speech. How are you ever going to write a grant proposal or lab report?
  10. Actually, the scenario there is an insult to our math teachers. Had we been less concerned about rote memorization, our society might not be as ignorant. Deriving a solution to the quadratic formula doesn't require much skill. Any and every man should be able to do it. Take note: I am not talking about mathematics per se. I am talking about the ability to think.

    English is something you need to know, but must not know too well. Let’s leave it at that.
  11. What state? The English syllabi (I THINK that's the plural of syllabus...not particularly motivated to look it up) vary depending on the system you're under. For most of them, though, there's certainly a blurring of the lines betwen English and Literature as subjects. I can see why it's thought to be compulsory - good communications skills are essential for succeeding in life - but the focus needs to shift a little, away from studying texts and to practical skills such as formal writing and oral skills, which are pretty much left for dead under the VCE system. Mind you, I did enjoy the argumentative/persuasive writing part of it so you're not going to see me arguing for the removal of that part. :wink:

    Ideally I'd like to see two compulsory categories - one for maths, one for english - with a number of subjects in each category and students are required to complete at least one from each. If you're doing English Lit, why do English as well? You might not need to know calculus if you're planning a glamorous life on the dole, but a maths subject that concentrates on practical maths applications (yes, it's mostly covered in earlier years, but I tutor plenty of people who simply miss it completely the first time around and things such as geometry, interest and probability can be covered in more depth over a two-year period than over two weeks) will equip you better than graduating having forgotten everything you did before Year 11.
  12. Chi Meson

    Chi Meson 1,767
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    I think he was referring to the requisite courses in English you will face in university!

    I did a Physics/English double major, and then I got an MFA in English-Creative Writing. I decided early on that I would "enjoy the books" that were given to us, and then enjoy writing my opinion on them. The trick was to keep it "valid." When I got too clever-clever, the teachers didn't like it, but if I stayed within the boundaries of plausibility, and injected humor, the teacher usually appreciated it. I can't tell you how many papers I got back with remarks like: "this is the only paper with a unique point of view" etc. That remark became my initial goal, and then when I found a skewed way to look at a work, the papers usually wrote themselves.

    By now, most people on this forum have done "Lord of the Flies" right? And most of you know that they could not have started a fire with Piggies eyeglasses because he was short-sighted, right? I decided to use that error as the leaping point to rip apart the author's entire premise; since the structure and perimeters of his world were physically flawed, who's to say he was not manufacturing the structure and perimeters of his society? Teacher HATED it, but I still got an A.

    Feel free to use that premise, anyone, it was suggested to me by my own HS physics teacher anyway.
  13. Not here, mate. The core subjects in a degree here are only those that are actually relevant. You won't find many, if any, engineers/scientists doing English or arts students doing algebra if it isn't required by their specific course.
  14. Chi Meson

    Chi Meson 1,767
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  15. That really depends on the University you attend. For example, at the University of New South Wales, you are required to do "gen-ed" subjects which are generally quite different from the core subjects within your chosen degree.
  16. O rly? That's the first I've heard of that. No courses I know of down here require you to take general subjects outside of your faculty. From looking at the UNSW website, it appears that the GE program is different to the US model in that they're still part of and related to your faculty, just not necessarily your major. Would that be accurate? (e.g. Engineering's general subjects are units like "solar cars", "computer game design", etc., and science has units such as astronomy, aviation and cosmology.)
  17. Moonbear

    Moonbear 11,955
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    How is English not relevant to science? Have you ever opened up a scientific journal? While the topic about which you are writing may not be thrilling to you, the lesson in communicating your thoughts clearly, logically and concisely, along with properly supporting your claims, is essential for later communicating your scientific findings. Further, as a large number of journals are written in the English language, even non-English speakers embarking on a scientific career find they need to learn English.

    The opening post here is an excellent example of why formal English coursework remains necessary. It was disorganized, rambling, redundant, and full of grammatical errors that made it difficult to understand the point in the first read-through. Upper-level English courses and the assigned essays in them help to hone those writing skills. I cannot think of any field in which strong writing skills and critical reading for content are not important. I was extremely pleased when informed that the department I've recently joined even has a required writing class for graduate students. I hope it helps remediate those who previously thought English courses were unimportant for science majors.

    As for why an English major would not be required to learn algebra, I can only suggest it is a disservice to those students to not require proficiency to at least that level, unless the expectation is they will never earn enough to need to balance a checkbook. :wink: From your description, I do not find fault in making English (or generally, language, whatever that language is) composition a compulsory subject, but rather that the math and science subjects are not compulsory. In the U.S., courses in all three areas are required in high school.
  18. Moonbear

    Moonbear 11,955
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    Did you read the page on their site that's titled "General Education?" Each faculty offers Gen Ed courses, but the idea of Gen Ed is to get breadth of knowledge outside your area of specialization. You could contact the school to be certain, but it sounds to me like there would be restrictions preventing you from using courses in your own specialization (major) to satisfy Gen Ed requirements.

    They have a very good explanation of why they are required as well:
  19. wolram

    wolram 3,552
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    One thing that should be weaned out of english, is terms like,( i have got),I
    i guess HRW would say different but to me the term is nonsense.
  20. Moonbear

    Moonbear 11,955
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    Unless you're using "got" as a noun (coining a new term perhaps), then that's not correct English at all. It's just "I have..."
  21. Chi Meson

    Chi Meson 1,767
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    I've got other examples of that kind of thing (note irony):
    can we all stop using the word "usage"? It's "use."
    And don't every say "thusly" in front of me, you'll lose your teeth. Say "thus."
    And I hope no one here has ever said "the thing of it is, is..."
    I'll stop now [/RANT]
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