It goes without saying to most adult readers that all high school courses are important. Each, in its own way, teaches students a critical facet of life – whether it’s the natural world in biology, the universe’s underlying patterns and structures in mathematics or the perennial applicable lessons found in history.
Nevertheless, some people still ask: Why is English so important? In a world dominated by science and technology, where nanorobots and cloud computing command headlines, is English even relevant?
The answer is a resounding “yes.” In an era defined by misinformation, shaped by conflict and steered by competing human desires, literature is both a mode of understanding and a means of connecting.
For all those students heading into high school English – whether it’s ENG4U online or a Grade 11 English class–here’s a summary of the enduring significance of the subject.
Table of Contents
1. Teaching Empathy
One of literature’s greatest contributions to general society is empathy. In your day-to-day life, you may experience a “bubble,” a network of interactions with people of a similar class, race, gender, locale or social standing as yourself. Without exposure to the lives of others, it’s easy to fall into apathy.
But in literature – whether books or other media – you encounter new perspectives, new ways of looking at the human experience. This develops empathy, the ability to understand and even share someone else’s feelings.
2. Fostering Critical Thinking
Reading and writing require you to reflect. They demand that you look at all angles and make reasonable judgments and assertions based on those reflections.
The critical thinking tools you acquire in English class come in handy throughout your life. Presented with a task at work, you might use the systems of evaluation, interpretation and revision you learned in English class to succeed.
3. Polishing Your Communication Skills
Naturally, engaging with the written word helps you communicate. Whether you’re reading a dense Victorian novel or writing an essay on your summer vacation, the process of parsing out thoughts and attaching meaning to language hones your communication skills.
You’ll find these skills endlessly useful in life. Charged with writing an email to an old friend, sharing your thoughts at a dinner party, writing an internal memo at work or simply spilling your feelings to a loved one, the communication skills you sharpened in English class will prove essential.
4. Learning Media Literacy
As Charles Dickens famously wrote, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” While we currently live in an unprecedentedly forward-thinking time, we’re also surrounded by record levels of disinformation. Social media bombards you with opinions and “alternative” facts. Learning to separate fact from fiction requires media literacy.
Luckily, media literacy is a component of contemporary English classes. In high school English, you learn to spot the differences between a weak argument and a sound one. And you learn to cite sources and demand citations. If the current spate of misinformation is any indication of the future of information, this media literacy will come in very handy.
For all these reasons and more, stick with English. At worst, you’ll leave with a few more critical thinking and communication skills than when you started. At best, you’ll discover a lifelong love of reading and writing about high school english.
You may also read: How To Boost Your Paper Writing Skills