Essays and English Class

Posted on

As you can tell by my hobby of blogging, I like to write.  So one would expect English to be one of my favourite classes of all going through high school.

But it wasn’t.

I actually enjoyed a great amount of the subject matter of English, that’s not why I didn’t like it.  I just didn’t agree with being required to take 4 years of it when I’d rather be taking Biology, Chemistry, Drama or even French in that time slot.

I do think English education is important.  Everyone should know the basics of sentence structure and how to read and write.  Illiteracy is a problem, and good education is the only way to combat it.  And so, the first year of high school English taught me invaluable lessons.

However, I do not see the importance of knowing how to write a literary analysis of How to Kill a Mocking Bird, for example.  How will this help me be successful in life?  It won’t.  I received no lasting benefit from spending all four years in that classroom.  Sure, there might be national illiteracy problem, but I have yet to see a spot on 20/20 about how devastating it is that 80% of Americans do not know how to properly outline a Shakespearean play.

“Well, when you get to University, you’ll have to write a lot of essays!” exclaims the teacher.

And so I formed a goal.  I knew I was going into the science field and I was determined to prove this teacher wrong: I would not write a single essay throughout my University career.

So here I am, approaching my last semester of Computer Science at Carleton University, and I have never had to write a single essay. Sure, I avoided certain electives to make sure that happened, but I proved that it is possible.

However, as I think about it… it is important to write.  I don’t even mind writing essays.  Maybe instead of proving to the teacher that writing essays was useless, I proved to myself that there are not enough essays in high school and University education.

But I still hold strong onto the fact that we don’t need 4 years of essay writing class.

Bare with me, I promise I’m going somewhere with this.

The only essays I ever wrote were in English class.  Usually about some novel or play and how its theme was presented.  What about essays in our other courses?

In high school, I didn’t have to write a single essay or research paper in math, physics, history, or drama.

My theory is this:  Teach us how to write.  Teach us how to present an argument.  Fail us until we can do it properly.

And then eliminate the requirement to take 3 additional years of English by having us write in our other courses. Not only will this allow us to refocus ourselves and take the classes we might be interested in, but it will give students a chance to write about something they actually might care about.  It might open their eyes to a topic that could inspire them.  Maybe with a little more direction like this, we wouldn’t have so many “Undeclared” majors at University.  So many people taking English as a major just because that is all they’ve ever known.

So there you have it: English should be no more required than physics or music, instead it should be a required portion of every class.