Why English Matters (and Why You Should Care)
By Anthony Lee
“Why do we have to learn English?” Of all the vehement complaints Charter School of Wilmington students have, none can surpass the objections to learning English. They have valid reasons to complain: because the Charter School of Wilmington is a STEM school and should focus intensely, if not exclusively, on STEM subjects, shouldn’t the school allocate less time to English and more to the sciences? As a student, I can sympathize with that rationale. Oftentimes, English homework proves tedious and boring, and one cannot help but question the necessity of the subject while completing an essay the night before the due date. (Trust me: I have done that several times.) However, as a columnist, I must disagree with my academic alter ego: to learn English is to learn an important life skill that will contribute to your success today and in the future.
In the 21st century, effective English usage has grown into a prime concern as globalization continues and formerly insular nations interact more with each other. Compared to Americans of decades past, we can now interact with people around the world with greater ease and speed with the aid of new technologies. With the growth of digital communication, English has emerged as a global language, spoken by people across the continents. Today, children in Argentina, Uganda, France, and South Korea, among others, learn English, too. This trend will only continue as corporations (future employers!) continue to trade with each other in the U.S. dollar: English is effectively the language of business. So, if you plan on pursuing a career that requires international cooperation (e.g. business, diplomacy, etc.), learn English now! In the future, you will meet and interact with foreigners, most of whom have mastered English to some degree. In order to facilitate conversation, speaking coherently and succinctly with proper English mechanics is crucial. (Plus, it is embarrassing if the nonnative speaker articulates better English than you.)
What if your career goal lies within the domestic confines of the U.S.? Not to worry; proper English usage is still required in many jobs at home as well. A quick search of the Occupational Information Network of jobs that require writing, speaking, and reading comprehension, all English-related skills, support this sentiment. The lists are immense, but they include the likes of clinical psychologists, molecular and cellular biologists, lawyers, education administrators, social workers, technical writers, radiologists, and more. As one can see, a quite diverse selection of jobs, some of them STEM related, require effective English usage. So, contrary to popular opinion, employees in STEM occupations do need to learn English. This necessity becomes more evident when one considers the reports and proposals for grants that engineers and researchers, respectively, must write. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics even reports in their 2014 “STEM 101: Intro to tomorrow’s jobs” that “communication skills are important for working well with others and conveying information clearly, both orally and in writing,” which include technical writing, public speaking, interpersonal communication, and the ability to explain difficult concepts simply.” So, for those of you ready to enter the STEM workforce to escape English, be forewarned. You will have to employ what you learned in your English class in your job.
Not so worried about your future occupation? Trying to thrive in high school to gain admission into your dream college? Then, start paying attention in English class because you will employ those skills in the admissions process. The obvious examples of English achievement in your application are the dreaded PSAT and SAT reading and writing sections and AP English Language/Literature and Composition classes. However, did you know that the Common Application, the application used by most universities and colleges, requires an essay portion? “Favorite” essay prompts include “reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea” and “discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.” Furthermore, many scholarship programs, internships, etc., require the applicant to write a paragraph to determine interest and qualification. To successfully apply for these competitive opportunities, having a strong knowledge of English really helps as it leads to a strong personal statement and less pain when proofreading the essay after you finish. (I write with personal experience on the latter point.)
However, the most compelling reason to learn English lies in the perceptible growth you will see in not only your writing but your overall confidence. When I first started high school, I was a decent writer: I knew my grammar rules well enough, I could write a passing personal narrative, and I could formulate a pretty good argument based on textual evidence. Good, but not great: that was the state of my writing when I started taking freshman English.
I changed the mediocre quality of my writing in one year. Under the tutelage of Ms. Chandler, I learned to question, analyze, and express my thoughts accurately and succinctly in writing. Wanting to hone my skills even more, I joined the Force File on a passing whim. Since then, I have won Honorable Mention in a national essay contest, I have earned the honor of column editor, and most importantly, my writing has slowly but steadily improved. (You can chart my progress in the Force File archives.) Was the journey difficult? Yes, it took a lot of time and commitment. Was it worth the hardship? Absolutely.
To many Charter School of Wilmington students, English is the bane of their existence; quite frankly, learning all the rules can get boring. However, it is a necessary evil. As the world grows more connected, it is paramount that we, the people of the world, effectively communicate with each other. A solid knowledge of English facilitates that transfer and allows you to express your opinion eloquently. So the next time you start drifting off in English, try to stay awake. What you learn in class now might come in handy later in life.
About the Author: Anthony Lee is a sophomore at the Charter School of Wilmington. An avid contributor to the Force File since freshman year and one of its column editors, he has tried (and failed) to convince his friends of the importance of English in general. He hopes that his editorial will change those opinions. Besides writing for the Force File, Mr. Lee enjoys reading, playing his piano or clarinet, and sleeping late on the weekends.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Charter School of Wilmington or the CSW Newspaper Club.