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Why is English compulsory at school?

  1. Feb 16, 2013 #1
    I really don't see the point in analyzing a text or writing a creative.
    You can argue that learning English allows one to acquire essential skills such as communication, reading comprehension etc... but such skills can be acquired much more effectively in ways other than watching a movie then writing about how the low angle shot emphasizes the authority of character X who seems to symbolize the rigid hegemonic force of materialism; keeping the company to a conservative rule-bound world, limiting creativity and individuality.
    I enjoy maths and science a lot so why do I have to learn these useless English figures of speech or poetry or whatever? The education system needs an update...
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 16, 2013 #2


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    Or possibly you need to broaden your horizons lest you end up being a really boring person regardless of whatever technical expertise you may acquire.
  4. Feb 16, 2013 #3


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    If you live and work in an English-speaking nation, English is very important. If you have to write a technical paper, and your grasp of English is poor, your paper may be poor regardless of your grasp of the technicalities.

    IMO, the poets of the English Romantic period were compelling writers, and I enjoyed reading their works. As Phinds said, it might be good to broaden your horizons.
  5. Feb 16, 2013 #4
    But I don't think the way English is structured is going to help me become a more interesting person. I like reading books and watching movies and I do watch movies, if fact I watched Django Unchained yesterday and I loved it, but what is the point of writing an essay on the movie to support a thesis, for example, "racism can denigrate ones's attempts to attain a state of happiness and satisfaction in life and may lead individuals who are being discriminated against to submit to violence in order to attain a state of peace". Then what we would do in English is find techniques in the text that support the thesis.
    This can help but I think one can improve their English much more effectively by reading, communicating etc...
  6. Feb 16, 2013 #5
    That's exactly what I do argue. You have answered your own question in the title line.

    Now you are not arguing about whether it should be taught, you are arguing how it should be taught. Rather you are arguing how it should not be taught. How should it be taught?
  7. Feb 16, 2013 #6
    It should be taught in a way so that it is useful for different types of people.
    i.e. People who want to become lawyers, journalists, poets and writers should learn a different kind of English to people who want to become doctors, engineers and scientists.
  8. Feb 16, 2013 #7
    But you have already told us that it should be taught differently. What I am asking is how it should be taught. How should it be taught to you?
  9. Feb 16, 2013 #8
    For example, doctors, engineers and scientists need to be effective communicators and have good reading comprehension so there should be a version of English that focuses on improving these skills. In the current English curriculum one can get very high marks by reading the analysis of the text on the internet (reading comprehension isn't improved this way) and I don't see how writing essays and creatives can improve communication skills.
    Lawyers, writes etc... need to learn a different kind of English, so there should be a version for them.
  10. Feb 16, 2013 #9
    You are not communicating.
  11. Feb 16, 2013 #10


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    At the university level, sometimes there are such classes.

    At the high school level, there's neither the resources nor a point to having such different classes. Students don't know what they're going to end up as when they're in high school.

    Frankly, this kind of worldview is also pretty short-sighted. It's also kind of arrogant to think that you aren't learning anything useful to you by studying literature. You never know when something that you've learned can help you with some completely unrelated work, if only because it's trained you to be able to see things from different perspectives.

    It also helps you be a better communicator with people who are not scientists. You can't get through life only communicating with people like yourself.

    As a fictional example, there's a book series I've been reading about a cop in 90's China who studied English literature and Chinese Poetry in university, and the perspectives he's gleaned from poetry and his training in English often come in handy in the stories. It's a fictional example, yes, but again, those perspectives he's gained from extensive reading of poetry enable him to see his case at hand from a wide variety of different perspectives; one or more of those different perspectives is often important to solving his case.

    Being able to think different is a vital skill for a scientist.
  12. Feb 16, 2013 #11
    Ok, makes sense.
    It is my final high school year, next year I will not have to study literature :)
  13. Feb 16, 2013 #12
    High School is not the appropriate place to teach individual courses for various communications.

    That is for university. For example, I am enrolled in this course: http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/learning/programme-course-paper/paper.cfm?paper_code=119.177 [Broken] which is tailored to the IT industry.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  14. Feb 16, 2013 #13
    This reminds me of the story of Steve Jobs. He said studying typography was a huge factor in his success. He described fonts as being "artistically subtle, in a way that science cannot capture". You can say the same about literature, can't you? :)
  15. Feb 16, 2013 #14


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    I think you are falling into the classic pitfall of "why the F do I need to study this?"
    This happens to practically everyone. There are people who absolutely love to write, read, and analyze movies, stories, and poetry. And a great many of those people probably say "why the heck do I need to learn math or science? I'm not going to use them". I think this is as much of a mistake as what you are saying.

    It is very difficult to look beyond what you like and understand and try to comprehend that which you think is boring or perceive to be unnecessary. However, typically you couldn't be further from the truth in my opinion. The ability to understand WHY and HOW people work, think, and act (all of which are part of analyzing english) will drastically increase your understanding of the world. One of the hardest things for many people to do is to develop empathy towards those they do not know. To be able to recognize others as real people and accept that their problems are just as important to them as yours are to you. And even understand those people who you absolutely cannot tolerate, the ones you may hate, deride, and chastise, whether they deserve it or not. This is one of the most important things a person can do in my opinion, and I believe it leads to a wisdom that is absolutely incomparable to anything else in the world.

    While it may not seem like learning the way to frame a scene would lead to this, it is all one part of a much larger concept. Ask yourself, "why does framing the scene this way make this character look more intimidating?" and "why is this important? What does it do to the film? What does it represent in the larger sense?" If you do not try to go deeper, to dig beyond the surface, you will never appreciate the understanding it can bring you.

    Remember, it's not the rules that are important, it's WHY the rules are there in the first place. That's the real question sometimes. And you can apply this to practically every area of life, even work. Once you understand why things are the way they are, a great many things in life become much easier to understand. Rules are put in place for a reason, even if you don't like them or agree with them. But if you understand why they were put there in the first place it is usually much easier to deal with them. (Or change them in some cases)
  16. Feb 16, 2013 #15


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    I believe one is criticizing the necessity of the study of literature, rather than the broader subject of English, which would also include grammar, composition, rhetoric, communication, etc. I can sympathasize with the doubt on literary criticism or analysis. I really didn't care for fictional works, except perhaps science fiction, and I preferred to read for enjoyment rather than having to read for the purpose of analysis.

    I would prefer to read historical documents, e.g., writings of historians or political leaders, than some piece of fiction, although I selectively read fiction. My greatest frustration was being forced (mandated by the school district/faculty) to read someone else's idea of 'classic' literature, e.g., Shakespeare, which I did not enjoy, nor did I care for.

    At university, my entry essay wasn't great, so I was assigned to a literature class, probably to ensure employment for English grad students, rather than a writing/communications class. The literature class was for me a waste of time, whereas a writing/communications class would have been more approriate.
  17. Feb 16, 2013 #16
    That's what History is for. :-)

    We are lucky that we do not require interviews/writing essays for admission into a NZ university. (in general; there may be certain degrees that require additional items in order to enrol, e.g. an art portfolio.)
  18. Feb 16, 2013 #17
    I took the compulsory composition 101 course at Rutgers U. We spent the entire time reading essays on a wide range of topics (no novels, or other kinds of literature) and writing our own essays on what we had read. Unfortunately, I had not yet developed my current style of writing or I would have enjoyed the course so much more than I did. It was really about critical thinking and how to write essays and in that sense was quite focused. And yet, since everyone had to take the course, the essays were about history, politics, religion, literature, and the sciences etc. In other words, you were likely to find your own major in there somewhere. The final consisted of writing a research report that conformed with what we had learned about essay writing along with proper citation of bibliographic materials. We were allowed to choose any topic whatsoever and since this was at the time that Bobby Fischer had just won the World's Chess Championship and I like to play chess, I chose for a topic, his aggressive style of play.
  19. Feb 16, 2013 #18
    I like this :D
    My friend got 99.6 in high school because his English mark was low which dragged him down :(
    I will make sure I do well in English so that it doesn't affect my university admission mark by a lot.
  20. Feb 16, 2013 #19


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    I whole heatedly agree with you. Many people, not only here but all over the country, confuse literature classes with grammar and writing classes. The latter two are crucial but these skills are NOT what a high school literature class teaches you. To this day I have not once had to use the useless 6 years of literature classes I was forced to take. I feel your pain but unfortunately there is nothing you can do. Rejoice in the fact that once you are in college you will, hopefully, no longer be forced to take any more of those feckless classes. I learned about writing and grammar by reading books on my own and the New York Times; I did not learn one fruitful thing from the literature classes, on the other hand, except how to write essays about things that matter so little in the real world it just blows my mind (if sometime in the future the philosophical ramblings in Frank Kafka's Metamorphosis come in handy or if the extended character analysis of Antigone just happens to change my life for the better, I will surely recant these statements). Literature classes seem to be guarded by certain educators who advocate facets of the subject that ostensibly seem beneficial but in reality will serve no practical purpose.
  21. Feb 16, 2013 #20


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    Question asked and answered.
    Not sure what kind of paper that was, but in general, writing about anything can make one a better writer. The subject is not really all that important, the fact that you are writing is what is important.
    When you get into the professional world, you will either:

    1. Be glad you have excellent communication skills.
    2. Wish you had paid more attention to the education you were given.

    Once you get a job in your field, everyone will be the same when it comes to credentials in the field. At that time, communication skills become one of the most important things that separates people.
    Intellectual development. There is no reason why movies can't be just fun but if that's all you want, but if you want intellectual growth, you need to go deeper.
    If "I loved it" is all you can say about a movie, that doesn't make you an interesting person, it makes you a shallow, boring person.
    You aren't in college yet, are you? If you are, are you far along in your major? When you get far along in your major, you will take specialized writing/communications courses, but they don't have any value until you've learned the subject matter. Until then, general communications skills provide a good base.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2013
  22. Feb 16, 2013 #21
    I find interestingness and shallowness similar to intelligence; they're too complicated to conclude that a person is interesting or no, they aren't interesting. Scoring well an IQ test proves that you are good at writing IQ tests - it doesn't gauge how intelligent you are. Scoring well in English class proves that you are good at analyzing text - it doesn't gauge how interesting you are.
  23. Feb 16, 2013 #22
    I don't always love movies, but I loved The World According to Miley Cirus.
    http://media.heavy.com/media/2012/09/most-interesting-man-single-piece-flow.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  24. Feb 16, 2013 #23


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    Because it are importantly for you to be is able to word good.
  25. Feb 16, 2013 #24
    lololol :D
  26. Feb 16, 2013 #25


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    Why is English compulsory at school? Why is math compulsory at school? Why is science compulsory at school? Why is school compulsory? Just because you don't like the subject doesn't mean it is useless. English is probably in fact one of the most useful subjects, because no matter what area you decide to go into, if you can't write properly it doesn't matter how good you are in that field. This is especially true for tertiary education. If you can't write a decent paper what good are you?
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