Why do we have to study English?
It’s a fair question, and one that I’m asked a lot. Perhaps you’ve asked this question yourself. What makes this subject so important? Why is it valued so highly?
Since you first started school, back when you were only a few years old, you have been studying English. Back then, it was probably called ‘Literacy’, and it was in these lessons that you took your first steps in using the English language. You learned to read, to write, and to speak, and as the years went on you will have become more and more advanced in your understanding of English.
Then, you get to secondary school.
Literacy turns into English Literature and English Language, and suddenly you are bombarded with texts from all over time and space. Gone are the days of the Hungry Caterpillar and Dr. Seuss, replaced by Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, Animal Farm and Conflict Poetry, to name a few.
But there is a reason for this:
The texts you read in literacy taught you to read.
The texts you read in English teach you to think.
You are taught to analyse texts and look for deeper meanings. You are taught to consider different interpretations to your own. You are taught to take on board other people’s point of view and build these ideas into your own arguments. You improve your ability to appreciate detail and to form intelligent ideas.
And then you are taught to take these new ideas and share them with the world, whether through writing a story or newspaper article, or whether it’s through standing in front of your classmates and delivering a speech.
It’s true that when you eventually go for a job interview it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll be asked about Lady Macbeth’s guilt or Lizzie Bennett’s opinion of men, but that isn’t the point. The point is that by exploring these characters and their lives, you have developed an ability to consider lives other than your own. You have learned empathy, and it’s this quality that will see you succeed, particularly in jobs that require teamwork.
Above all, at least in my opinion, studying English is so important as it teaches you one crucial skill: communication. It teaches you to consider your own ideas, develop these ideas and then convey them to others so that they can form new ideas themselves, which in turn will help you develop yours. You can then use these skills in all manner of careers, whether it’s teaching, acting, crime fighting, horse riding, hairdressing, car selling – the list goes on and on and on.
So why do we study English? The simple answer is because it teaches you how to interact with other people and with the world around you. It gives you the opportunity to explore new ideas and different ways of thinking. Furthermore, in doing all of this, it provides you with the skills and qualities you’ll need so that when those exams are finally over and you walk through those school gates for the final time, you feel confident and prepared to take on anything that comes your way.