Teach Me How to Write, English Classes


Jonah Whitney, Contributor

When it comes to the topic of English classes, most of us will readily agree that it is an important subject. Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of what is being taught. While some are convinced that it is perfect as is, others believe that it could use a serious revamping. English classes have been teaching us reading and writing through literature followed by writing literary paragraphs. I hope to convince you through this piece that English classes could have a much better curriculum. English classes are only covering material learned in other classes while neglecting to teach important skills used in most English-based careers.

There are four main categories of skills that are taught in English classes: reading, writing comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. While these skills are important, they are also taught in other classes. Reading comprehension is taught in both Science class and again history class. Both of these classes have students reading research papers and pulling out complex pieces of information. The classes that not only teach writing skills but also teach them better are history courses. What makes history class better at teaching writing skills is that you write research papers, a style of writing that is a lot more useful than literary paragraphs. I say this because skills used in writing a research paper can be used in many different careers. History classes teach people how to express their thoughts while using evidence to support them. This evidence is not just a subjective interpretation of a sentence but an account of what is happening in the real world. Scientific papers are written basically like a magazine article that has almost no opinions. History papers are written very similar to literary paragraphs but just talking about real-world events rather than from a book. For both grammar and vocabulary, I learned a lot more in my Latin classes than I ever learned in English classes. For grammar, I learned everything that I have learned in English as well as multiple other things like what participles are or how to form many different types of clauses. Admittedly, I was not really taught punctuation in Latin class, but only having to learn punctuation would very much shorten the time needed and would make room for much more important skills. For vocabulary many of the words that I learned in Latin class later show up as roots to vocab words in English class. An example of this was in my most recent vocab list for English is the word laudatory meaning to give praise comes from the Latin verb for praise laudo. This was not the only case where Latin let me understand a word over a year before I would have learned it in English. In the end, all four of the main skills learned in English class overlap with other classes that teach it just as well if not better.

Because of the overlap of subjects that are covered, I think that English classes should change their curriculum to cover skills that are much more useful for life after school. What jobs write literary paragraphs? Really, only English teachers end up writing literary paragraphs. Teaching people skills to be an English teacher is great and all but it leaves out a lot of jobs like authors and journalists. Changing the curriculum to include skills specific to those kinds of skills not only would open up more job opportunities for students in the future but also keep English teachers an option for those who want it. I say that the curriculum should be more focused on teaching students different styles of writing instead of the overwhelming amounts of literary paragraphs that are normally written. Students should be writing newspaper articles, magazines, critical reviews, short stories, and even short novels. Here many people would probably object that this would fundamentally remove teaching the ability to analyze a quote. These people would be mistaken because they overlook the fact that if students are writing novels, they need to learn how to include information in similar ways to the novels that we have read in the past. These both teach them how to think about quotes critically and how to include meaningful sentences in their own writing. Overall, the assertion that English classes should teach more practical writing skills begs the question, What about those math skills that I’ll never use again? My response is to say that high school’s point is to explore the possibilities of our future. We should be exposed to many different possibilities for what we will do with our lives. That math class that you think you will never use after school at least exposed you to skills used in many different careers. English classes do not have that sort of variety in their curriculum.

English classes fail to teach students the many different parts of English. Ultimately, what is a stake here is a generation of potentially great authors and journalists are not getting introduced to writing outside the classroom. There could be students who hate writing in a literary paragraph format who, when presented with writing something else, might fall in love with writing. Many young writers are likely never going to live up to their potential because they never got a chance to write their first short story in English class.