English Classes Have Content and Are Not Only About Skills

Discussion PostArguments against having required reading in school always trouble me for a very simple, but perhaps overlooked reason: we only make these arguments for English classes.  That is, you simply don’t find many people (except perhaps a few grumpy students) arguing that students should get to choose what math theorems they learn or that if students find resonance forms boring, they shouldn’t be asked to learn them.  You aren’t going to read someone asking, “Doesn’t learning about stuff you don’t want to learn about ruin all the fun?  Won’t asking students to identify parts of the cell when they don’t like it mean that we’ll ruin biology for them forever?  Shouldn’t we stop this oppressive teaching of the Pythagorean theorem?  I prefer the quadratic formula so I shall only do problems involving the quadratic formula from now on!”

Now, I suspect there are various reasons for this focus on English.  1) We feel like we’re all entitled to have opinions on reading because we can all read, but we’re not so sure about our ability to argue for or against the quadratic formula so we leave math classes to the professionals.  2) We see STEM courses as building blocks to professionalization, so we are okay with learning stuff we hate because “we’ll need it later.” But English “can’t get you a job.”  3.)  We think of English classes as learning how to expand our vocabulary and understand complex sentences (reading comprehension) rather than as classes focused on the study of literature.  All of these reasons betray a hidden judgment value–the judgement that English is not as complex or as worthy as STEM subjects are.

Now, this may seem like a strange statement.  After all, we tend to argue against required reading because we enjoy reading and we want others to, as well.  We don’t hate English!  However, the embedded assumption in our arguments is still that 1) any book is as good as any other as long as you’re getting practical skills out of it and 2) we are all as qualified to speak on English and its teaching as someone with a PhD in English or someone who has taught English for 20 years.  We are, in essence, saying that literature is not a real discipline.  It does not have specific content with which we should be familiar to be able to understand it at a deeper level.  It does not have building blocks or important works or ideas.  It is merely a tool to teach us to read in the other disciplines (which also require reading but somehow aren’t asked to teach reading–because their content is far more important and shouldn’t be sacrificed to teach a basic skill).  We are saying that studying English for years or a lifetime is a joke because anyone who has ever picked up a book possesses an opinion equal to the opinion of someone who has gone through  graduate school.

However, the mere fact that some students do not like certain books is not a reason to throw out a book.  After all, some students don’t like fractions and percentages, but it’s always good to a have a solid foundation in any discipline.  We don’t typically allow personal tastes to dictate courses because 1) everyone has different tastes (so who’s to say that reading The Hunger Games is more interesting than reading Macbeth?) and 2) young people aren’t always the best judges of what is valuable for them to do or learn.  And yet, when it comes to English, suddenly the fact that Johnny doesn’t like The Hobbit and Susie doesn’t like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer means that they should get to choose their own content.  We are saying that these courses don’t really matter–they don’t have real content and the instructor doesn’t know any better than the students what works have been considered influential or important.  Reading Captain Underpants accomplishes the same goals as reading To Kill a Mockingbird.

Of course, reading Captain Underpants may accomplish the same goals as reading To Kill a Mockingbird–if your goal is simply to get a student to read a thing, anything.  But, let’s face it. Though Captain Underpants may be popular and entertaining and all sorts of things–it’s not really doing the same work as Harper Lee’s book.  It’s not helping students understand the American novel or the Southern Gothic novel or the bildungsroman.  It’s not going to allow them to participate in conversations that assume they’ve read and are familiar with what may be the most well-known book about race written in America.  And these are probably the reasons To Kill a Mockingbird was assigned.

There is a lot to be said for encouraging students to enjoy reading.  Reading for pleasure is well-known to be linked to success in what seems like every way.  But there is also something to be said for respecting literary studies as a discipline with its own important idea, works, and movements.  Just asking students to read anything is like asking students to pick and choose which parts of math they’d like to learn: I’ll take the algebra but not the trigonometry, please.  But students don’t always know where they will be in a few years.  We give them math in case they need it for a major (even a science one) or for a job (even a humanities one).  Why don’t we give them English in case they need it for a major (English or history or theatre or philosophy might all require familiarity with certain works) or for a job (even one that does not involve teaching English)?  Why?  Because on some level, we continue to think English just isn’t that important.  If we did, we wouldn’t act like it exists solely to teach skills used in all the other disciplines.

I think discussions about how to get students excited about reading are very valuable.  I think we do need to find ways to balance required reading with options for students to explore their own interests.  However, I think we can all do this in a way that is respectful of the fact that literary studies is a real, valuable, and complex discipline–and not one to be confused with teaching grammar and reading comprehension.

33 thoughts on “English Classes Have Content and Are Not Only About Skills

  1. Cas @ Lovely Paranormal Books says:

    You raise a good point! I think the reason a lot of assigned reading comes from earlier eras is because it usually has more depth and/or is set/written in a different style from modern writing which gives for more discussion points.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      It’s also about tracing literary influences. It’s easier to understand texts if you have a background in the earlier literature that they are inspired by or are reacting to. A lot of Western literature, for instance, is influenced by the Bible. And by Shakespeare. Having an understanding of foundational texts is important!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosie Amber says:

    I think that perhaps with so many books ‘out there’ time is short in the school curriculum to explore many avenues, so once the set books which are needed for the exams are covered (and they do take a long time to get through all the reading and analysing) there’s not much time left over to explore other new and wonderful books. Then you get the grumbling about studying the same books for decades.
    Maybe topics in other classes, like maths, can be covered in less time too, so again there is an impression that ‘English drags’, but if you really look, then it might be that English only studies say 4 books, whilst Maths covers 20-30 topics.
    I do think it lies often with a person’s perception and what others say before you. But then it also can depend on the teaching. Most of us have come across at least one rare and gifted teacher of a subject that had students raving about them. I think they are still there, but often smothered by paperwork and limited by the need for statistical results.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Literature courses also tend to teach certain works because they are considered influential or foundational. A lot of Western literature, for instance, is inspired or alludes to classical authors such as Virgil or to Shakespeare. If you don’t have a background in these texts, it becomes much more difficult to understand later texts.

      Teaching the same works over and over, however, does tend to canonize them, as you suggest. Because they are taught to generations, we get the idea that they are the important works that need to continue to be transmitted. Imagine never reading a Shakespeare play in English class. A lot of people would actually argue that you didn’t have a complete English education. In fact, some colleges require a Shakespeare course to earn an English major! The idea is that you can’t become an expert in the field unless you have the same knowledge of the important texts that other experts have.

      Like

  3. jubilare says:

    Preach! ^_^

    I read books I didn’t like for English. Some of them I still don’t like. But I AM GLAD I READ THEM. Once literacy and proficiency are attained (and admittedly, we are failing miserably in teaching those things in too many cases), literature ceases to be about reading and becomes about the communication of human ideas and experiences. It’s not a concrete idea, like math, but there is a general consensus. when people are actually presented with the question, that this is important. Once that is recognized, then it’s easier to explain to people who don’t understand, why this book is better than that book. One of the things that worries me so much about our public education system is that kids don’t seem to be taught how to think or analyze or discuss. Not really. And that is the lock to which literature is a key. Maybe THE key.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think that English is struggling as a field right now because we’ve actually lost the sense that English is about important ideas like confronting ourselves, figuring out who we are and what we are about, both as individuals and as a society. You can’t statistically measure the success of asking students questions about those sorts of things. And, in a testing culture, what can’t be measured with numbers is deemed insignificant. Hence why some English programs are trying to justify themselves by teaching composition or cultural studies.

      I’ve seen first-hand the lack of critical thinking and I’m not sure what the answer is. I think every teacher has a sense that the teachers in the grades below them should have handled the issues. However, what I am seeing is that many students are struggling with the basics: knowing how to “student” (take notes, write down their homework, study the material effectively, etc.) and how to follow directions (I’ve been informed the fancy term is “executive functioning” and increasing numbers of students are being diagnosed as having an executive function disability. That is,they have difficulty knowing how to plan a task and create steps to follow to complete it.).

      This means that the bulk of any teacher’s time from grade school to college is being spent in making sure that the students are doing things like writing down the homework and taking notes as you speak. Then a lot of them need additional help having the assignment explained to them. You can write out the entire assignment in explicit detail and explain on the paper (and out loud in class along with a PowerPoint and any other format that might be deemed appropriate to engage all the different learners) all the steps needed to complete the task. But after they still need someone to take them personally aside, explain the assignment again out loud, and have them write down “Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, etc.”

      Obviously I am not trying to shame any students for struggling in school. I think we need to rethink our programs to figure out how to address this. Right now the burden seems to be on the teachers to explain everything in five different ways, then write down the homework in four different places (write it on the board, write in each student’s notebook, put it online, then email and/or text the parents!). And if the students still fail to understand or forget they have work, it’s somehow the teachers’ fault! However, right now there is not time enough for this and there aren’t enough resources in most schools to have every student’s planner looked at, each studen’s backpack checked for homework, and each student’s assignments explained to them one-on-one. So something needs to be done.

      Anyway, all this is to say–all our time seems to be spend in just making sure that the students are doing things that we used to take for granted students could do. But if your students don’t even understand the reading because they 1) did not write down that they were supposed to read it, 2) they did not bring the book home because you didn’t check their backpack, 3) they did not take any notes about it, or 4) they did not understand how to pull out the important parts to focus on (even with a study guide), then you’re never going to get to critical thinking and analysis at all.

      It’s weird, but I see various colleges now focusing on how to teach “self-sufficiency” to students because the students are used to having other people do everything for them. They don’t know how to figure out how to do new things by themselves. If even colleges are focusing on how to get students to do their homework without personal email reminders from the instructor, how do the instructors find time to teach?

      Liked by 1 person

      • jubilare says:

        I’ve noticed this, to a lesser extent (because they’re honors students with engaged parents) with two teenagers who live next door to me. They can take notes and do assignments and things of that nature, but they had no idea how to go online and, for instance, figure out a bus schedule on their own, or find where contact information for a pizza place is found. I ended up helping one of them do these things as she prepared to go to college. She’s doing well academically, and knows how to do critical thinking (which puts her well ahead of some of her peers) but there’s still a kind of… self-sufficiency missing, and I am not sure how or why. What you’re saying worries me deeply in part because I don’t know WHY it’s happening.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we just…stopped doing everything for students. When I was in school, the teacher said the homework out loud (if they were nice they wrote it on a special place on the board), you took out your planner, and wrote it down. If you didn’t and you forgot something, you could problem solve (call someone else in the class–maybe getting creative to find their phone number). If not, you took the consequences and thus learned that next time you should write down the homework. Believe me, nearly every student came in with their homework, lest they face the wrath of the teacher!

          As long as a student knows that the teacher is going to check their planner, look in their backpack, put everything online, and then text or call, they have no incentive to figure out how to be responsible for remembering their work and materials. Why write it down when they can just ask their mom to find it online?

          The problem with this is that the parents aren’t on board. They’d rather blame the teachers than let their kids face the consequences for their actions.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jubilare says:

            Yeah. the blame-game helps no one. I noticed that, when I went to college, one of the things my non-home-schooled compatriots struggled with was not having teachers hovering over them telling them what to do every day. It was normal for me, but a new experience for them. And my young friend has experienced much the same thing. I keep telling her that her professors expect her to be responsible. That it’s ok to miss a class every once in a while, and that it’s up to her to get notes from a fellow student and or talk to the prof about what she missed. She’s learning, but it’s very weird for her not to have hovering teachers… which in itself is a bad preparation for life.

            Like

            • Krysta says:

              Yes, unfortunately, I think teachers tend to hover more because they notice the students expect it and they think they have to in order for their classes to accomplish anything. But we have to break the cycle. Stop hovering, let the students fail (briefly), and allow the students space and time to change course.

              Liked by 1 person

            • jubilare says:

              And unfortunately, many people want teachers to be responsible in this way, that if the students fail, the teachers take the blame and lose their jobs… that’s a self-feeding cycle. >_<

              Liked by 1 person

  4. saraletourneau says:

    English classes were always among my favorites. The reading assignments didn’t always appeal to me, but as I got older I learned to appreciate them more. In fact, I still have some of my required reading books from high school and college. Plus, those classes improved my critical thinking and analysis skills; and being a more words / writing oriented person, I doubt I would have developed those skills as easily if I had only taken math or science classes.

    I was going to mention something about English majors and how some people don’t believe in their validity, either… But that’s a whole other topic in itself.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I didn’t enjoy a fair amount of the short stories I was assigned in school. Maybe I am just not a short story person. But there was value to reading even the works I didn’t particularly enjoy. As an English major, I was expected to be familiar with the bulk of the Western canon. I would have been far less prepared for my field of study if my English teachers hadn’t assigned works that are generally considered important and influential. Actually, I was ahead of most of my peers simply because I was familiar with the Bible. I have seen a lot of strange interpretations given by people who couldn’t recognize a story like Christ multiplying the loaves. But the reality is that a fair chunk of Western literature is indebted to the Bible, so it’s worth having a background in it your literary arsenal.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. nicolechinnici says:

    Fantastic post! Such an articulate, well thought out and reasoned argument speaks to just how important English classes are. They are not just about the books that are read but about learning how to think and analyze and put your thoughts into coherent form, which are skills we all need to be able to communicate on a daily basis.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      And, of course, they are also about the actual content of the works. We tend to celebrate the critical thinking and analytical skills–but you can get those from other disciplines, as well. Literary studies tends to be the one discipline where people assume it doesn’t matter what we read as long as we’re thinking critically about it. However, there are influential texts that students should be aware of. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Briana says:

    I think because English classes (which, notably, tend to be called “reading” classes rather than “literature” classes) for young students are focused primarily on reading comprehension over content, people get stuck thinking this the point of all English classes, even once students reach an age where they are generally proficient in the basic skills of reading and need to move on to more complex skills like argument/analysis and, yes, learning actual content.

    But people don’t realize that a lot of *other* classes for very young students are also kind of just about skills building blocks rather than content. I know people who think teaching science to elementary skills is half useless because you’re not really teaching them anything about how science works; it’s either randomly memorizing things like the parts of a cell (which you quickly learn was oversimplified so nothing you learned matters anyway), or it’s halfway to magic because you’re showing kids how liquids change colors in “chemistry class” or something.

    Anyway, I tend to get pushback when I say the content of English classes matters, but it does. My go-to example is that half of Western literature is built on Biblical allusions. If you don’t understand the Bible, you don’t understand a lot of other books. I have heard very bizarre interpretations of say. Romantic-era poems, because students went out on a creative interpretative limb and didn’t realize the poet was obviously referring to something in Genesis. Similarly, it really helps to have a knowledge of classical texts like the Aeneid, and a lot of literature makes reference to Shakespeare. Literature doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Precisely. Literature has content that is important! It’s not all about gaining skills, whether basic skills such as literacy or higher-level skills like critical thinking. I can learn critical thinking in a history, philosophy, religion, math, or science class, too. What literature classes offer that is different is literature! And you do need to know influential and foundational works such as the Aeneid or Shakespeare’s plays or the Bible to understand the works that came after. Offering a high school English class that only teaches popular contemporary works is going to leave students behind when they move on to college courses that expect them to be broadly familiar with the canon. Imagine trying to take the GRE and enter grad school for an advanced degree without having a background in the canon! They assume you know it, not that you chose all your own books when in school.

      Like

  7. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    hehe oh my goodness your argument about how people don’t quibble over required work in other works is just splendid and spot on. I also agree with you about how everyone thinks they know how to analyse a book because anyone can read- now I don’t dispute than anyone can have an opinion, but people just being lazy and making stuff up without evidence is what inspired my “reading between the lines” series- especially after some told me to “read between the lines” of Pride and Prejudice when I asked them for evidence that Darcy had no romantic interest in Lizzy (*face palm*) And it’s so ludicrous when people say “What are you gonna do with an English degree?” (especially cos the UK system is different and you can end up with any job afterwards- I’m not even kidding, some humanities students even end up in finance)- but I must have had that said to me a *million* times at uni. And I personally get frustrated that people aren’t interested in respecting English professors (though for me personally, this didn’t come from people on the course, but rather from people outside it) And frankly, some books *are* more worthy of literary analysis than others. I know it’s a controversial thing to say in some circles, but it’s true (and in academic circles it’s far from a ground breaking thing to say) It’s not that hard to understand that there’s more depth to Shakespeare than Dan Brown, even if someone may get a lot out of both from an emotional standpoint (though I don’t personally like the latter) I don’t understand why it’s such a controversial admonition. It’s not snobbery, and it’s got nothing to do with taste (I mean, most classics are classics for a reason and you don’t have to like them- I personally don’t like stream of consciousness, but I understand its literary merits) Sorry for the rant- I’ve had so much experience with all of this!!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, people tend to take the stance that “anything is right in English.” Anything is right–as long as you can provide textual evidence for your opinion. There’s a huge difference there, but because it’s not as cut-and-dried as an addition problem, people tend to interpret English as an “anything goes” sort of subject. And I’m sure majors contribute to this perception. I’ve said stuff like, “I had no clue what they were asking so I just made something up” after taking an exam. And gotten an “A” on said essay. But I meant I wrote out an argument I probably wasn’t fully invested in or maybe didn’t fully believe in (since I had to come up with it on the spot) and then just thought of all the evidence that seemed to fit, maybe not the best evidence but whatever came to mind as I tried to finish writing in time. I didn’t mean I literally made something up, which is what non-majors hear.

      I also think the grading standards tend to make English seem like it’s not a rigorous subject. I have seen papers written by my friends that received “B’s” and they, honestly, were not good. They basically just repeated what happened in the text with no analysis. That’s not a “B” paper, but some teachers figure, “Well, it’s not their major and they did their best, so they get a ‘B'” regardless of the objective quality of the paper. When you do that, of course the non-majors think English is easy. They think they’re being tested on reading comprehension instead of literary analysis.

      But I think the dearth of literary analysis is becoming a problem. I’ve seen plenty of books criticized for things that are not happening in the text or that are the literal opposite of what’s happening in the text. And people don’t care. They think if they have an opinion about a book, “their truth” is equal to or greater than “my truth” regardless of what the book actually says. If this is where literary criticism is going, then English as a discipline really will have no standing. Right now English departments are trying to demonstrate their relevance by saying they teach critical thinking. But people spouting opinions that willfully ignore textual evidence is not critical thinking.

      I get asked what my English degree is good for, too. Honestly, in this economy, it is actually a difficult question to answer. I know plenty of people who are under-employed or employed in areas outside of their discipline. It happens to STEM majors, too, but it does seem (anecdotally) that they have less trouble finding jobs in the long run. And, funnily enough, even some college English departments seem at a loss what to do with their majors. I see most of them advertising publishing, communications, and journalism jobs. Communications and journalism are actually different majors. And publishing is really hard to break into. You can’t send all your English majors there. The other option is business, but I think a lot of English people choose not to go into the business world because it’s, I don’t know, too structured or too focused on money or something. Some English people are kind of like free spirits, you know? They don’t want the typical 9-5 job.

      The one good thing about the English major, however, is that it’s not too specialized. Some people have really specific majors that basically open one job to them. English is more versatile, even if it means you have to get an advanced degree in a different subject once you decided on a career (law, business, library science, etc.).

      Yeah, it’s not a popular opinion, but some books are objectively better than others. My personal metric is whether I want to reread it. If not, it was good entertainment but probably not a great book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • theorangutanlibrarian says:

        Yes exactly! Haha yes, now you mention it, I definitely did that too- but to be honest, there’s a difference between an informed guess and making stuff up from scratch. I mean, even if I’ve gone into an exam blind, I can at least treat it like I would an unseen and can dredge up some knowledge from a lecture I attended or book I read to back up whatever claims I’m making. Admittedly, I have done exams on subjects I hadn’t revised- but the difference is I can apply some theory I actually know about- so yes, it comes back to what you’re saying: I didn’t literally make something up.

        Ah yes, there is that issue- I do personally find that without clear mark schemes (as they’re more prone to have earlier in the education system) people get away with stupid things- and in my personal experience (don’t want to cast aspersions, just talking about my uni) there was too much inconsistency in where lecturers stood on things- so one lecturer might be more likely to take someone to task on their childish writing style (which, believe me, I’m all for- but it was hard to explain to a friend why their essay got marked down for poor writing, when they present the argument that “all the other professors let them write like that”) or another might prefer to read only “schools of thought” essays, whereas another might not. It didn’t help in my uni that the English department didn’t employ blind marking (the other humanities did, which worked better) so there’s always the factor of how much they liked the student, and like you said, not wanting to give low grades.

        Oh gosh yes, I think there’s too much of a focus on Post-modernist relativism. I’m all for multiple truths- but if you’re going to tell me Romeo and Juliet is a comedy because it misdirects you at the start with comic elements, then I’m going to call bullshit, because sorry they die in the end, that’s a tragedy (again, sorry, mini rant 😉 ) And the whole airy fairy “oh but what’s to say it isn’t what I say it is- my opinion is valid too” doesn’t wash with me (and clearly is a source of great irritation). Personally, I think people are trying too hard to be clever- I don’t want to spend time debating the minutiae of things we know to be basic facts (like plot points- Darcy proposed to Elizabeth and said he loves her, therefore he loves her, it’s not that complicated) I want to actually get into the nitty gritty, Austen’s use of irony, the subtext to Lydia’s speech- that sort of thing.

        Yes, I think it’s different in the US to the UK, because in the US people do Marketing and Journalism degrees if they want to go into that field, whereas here you’re more likely to do English or History at a redbrick. Only the old polytechnics (I don’t know the term they use for them now, I want to say they’re like community colleges, but since I’ve always been on shaky ground with what that is, that’s probably a bad comparison) offer journalism/publishing etc degrees here (and likelihood of getting any job is lower with those degrees, let alone a job in the desired field). Personally, I think regardless where you are in the world, the analytical and communication skills you learn doing English are transferable. Hehe I will agree with you about the free spirit thing though- I think my friends and I have had the most difficulty settling into things, because yeah 9-5 jobs are a bummer 😉

        I do love the fact that it’s far more versatile 😀 I mean, let’s face it, I did it for the love of books, but my second reason was always that it meant I didn’t have to be pinned down so early on (I mean, who knows what they want to do at 18? I don’t even know what I want to do now 😉 )

        Hehe well I’m pretty sure I’ve now said a ton more unpopular things, so that one seems less bad now 😉 That’s a great point!

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Yes, that’s the problem. People who don’t do English often don’t understand that there is a difference between an educated guess or a blind one. Or maybe that when I say I “made something up” I mean something like “I just applied a feminist lens to it because I think that’s what my teacher wants even though I’m not invested in reading the story through this lens and I feel like I shoehorned in the evidence to make it read this way.” But,shoehorned or not, I still used evidence!

          Yeah, composition teachers do discuss how the different expectations of instructors can make writing seem arbitrary to students. It’s hard for them to understand that there are agreed up definitions of what “strong writing” is in any discipline, when all they see if this instructor allowing them to use “I” and this one not, this instructor focusing on grammar and this one not, this one teaching the five-paragraph essay and this one hating the five-paragraph essay. I think schools could help by having some general guidelines. Like, are we teaching the five-paragraph essay in English 101 or are we not? As a school, they should have a writing philosophy that says the five-paragraph essay will be used as training wheels or will be discarded, not have students bouncing around learning different things with no explanation. Or, at the very least, have the instructors explain what is their preference and what is not. Or why they use the five-paragraph essay but later expect students to stop.

          Yes, sometimes I read “clever” analyses and I think, “There’s a reason no one has ever argued that Lizzie Bennet is an alien in disguise. It’s not because centuries of scholars were dumb and missed it. It’s because there’s no evidence for it.” But now people just argue that their experience says aliens exist and thus the text can’t invalidate their alien beliefs. Sigh.

          That’s interesting. It seems like the U.S. is getting really specialized. Every job that used to be open to English majors now has its own degree–library science, publishing, social media, etc. It’s rough out there on the job market.

          Liked by 1 person

          • theorangutanlibrarian says:

            Yes precisely. Haha so true- I’ve done that before 😉 And I must admit that psychoanalytic readings are an especial goldmine when you’re in a tight spot 😉

            So true. I do think that it would help to have clear guidelines to avoid mix ups. And it can’t hurt to have instructors just say what they want. I think there’s an issue with instructors not being willing to tell people that actually there are rules for writing a good essay and easy mistakes they could make, perhaps because they don’t want to offend anyone. I’d also urge students to err on the side of caution- even if one tutor is okay with students using “I” in their essays, a lot aren’t (especially not in the UK anyway)

            Hahaha so, so true! I hate to “invalidate their alien beliefs”, but yeah, I’m just not gonna go along with that 😉 I’m just not especially fond of wasting my time and you know, no one’s stopping these clearly imaginative individuals from writing fiction (although now I feel like I’ve given someone an invitation to write “Pride and prejudice and aliens”- god help us)

            Yes, I do fear that happening here to be honest, because that sort of thing definitely happens on the continent- there are definitely post grads for things like library science, but fortunately people can still go into publishing and marketing straight out of uni here. It is really tough that it keeps getting more specialised though

            Like

            • Krysta says:

              Yeah, I definitely think it would be helpful for teachers to clarify expectations some more and maybe say, “I accept the use of first-person in this class for these reasons, but others might not for these reasons.” And thus make clear that everything isn’t totally arbitrary. I think sometimes it seems condescending or obvious to clarify what you’re doing and why, but a lot of students aren’t going to intuitively pick up writing rules.

              I would be kind of interested in P&P&Aliens…. Is that bad? 😉

              Yeah, I’m not in favor of specialization. No 18-year-old know what they want to do in life and it’s unfair to lock them in something so narrow. And it’s also unfair that you have to keep going back to school to specialize for your job because employers don’t want to pay for training. But that is a complaint for another day.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      That’s true. I know a lot of teachers begin by asking students to respond emotionally to the work by thinking when they were in a similar situation. I think reading aloud to students of any age is also a great way to engage them. For many of them, it’s a totally different experience to hear the story read with all the emotion, the right pauses, etc.

      Like

  8. Vlora (@vloralia) says:

    I mean personally I do think we should stop this oppressive teaching of the Pythagorean theorem. 😀 You make a good point – English (and in my case German too because I’m German) classes do have content, but maybe it’s not as clear to us? I think a lot of the time it just wasn’t communicated WHY I should read a book in school. It was more “read this book” than “read this book in order to understand about this specific period in literature we’re going to talk about”, although of course that did happen. I still think students should get more choice, but not only in English/languages but ALSO in sciences. Sure, you need to know the basics, but I’m MUCH more motivated when I get to choose what to do/read myself. I didn’t read a lot of the assigned literature in school even though I loved reading, but if I had a list of books to choose from at uni I was more likely to actually do the reading. Also, I didn’t need any of the maths I learned after the basics so far, because I went on to do degrees in American Studies and Communications/Media, so it wasn’t more valuable to me than language classes – the opposite in fact. Students should just generally have more freedom of choice.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think the difficulty schools face is that students often don’t know where they are going to end up. And don’t have a good grasp on what they need. I vaguely remember a survey where a majority of students didn’t realize that they needed to be able to do math to major in science! Left to their own devices, they would have given up on math courses and hurt themselves in the long run. I also know a fair number of people who majored in the humanities but need to do a lot of math on the business/paperwork side of things. True, they’re not doing calculus, but they ended up needing math when they thought they “weren’t math people” and “would never do math again.” So it makes sense to give students a broad foundation in many disciplines.

      Still, I think you’re right that as soon as you assign something, it becomes a chore. Even if you like reading, being told you have to read can be a pain! I do like when teachers give out suggested titles and let students pursue their own interests within the parameters of the class.

      Like

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.