It’s sixth period, which means it’s English class.
40 minutes of the most mind-numbingly boring class I’ve ever taken (or have been forced to take.)
I look around and see other kids playing games while my teacher regurgitates line after line of Romeo and Juliet.
Suddenly, I snap to attention for just long enough to hear my teacher say:
“Pay attention! This information I’ve just given you will be of vital importance on your next exam!”
“This next exam isn’t even hard, guys.”
“It’s just sheer memorization.”
As I sigh a sigh of disappointment, I phase out of concentration and think to myself, “Man, I swear time goes slower during English class!”
Yep. It’s true.
English class is a bit problematic.
I detest English class.
It’s bores me to the bone, it’s not very effective, and is way too focused on examinations.
But this isn’t an inherent trait of English class. As they say, great idea, poor execution.
Having taken a British curriculum English class and an American curriculum English class, I can easily say that the British curriculum is far better than the English counterpart.
So without further ado, let’s delve further into the problem of American High School English class.
What’s going wrong with English class?
There are a few key problems with English class, as I can see:
- It’s not interesting. Like, at all.
- Lessons are blandly structured around a book, with the same format day in, day out.
- At the end of the day, It’s just one big preparation-for-some-test-you’ll-take-in-junior-year/senior-year/in-two-years.
- Lessons are not very intuitive, and does nothing to help those who learn better by feeling and doing or hearing rather than via visual stimulation.
- Focuses too much on certain aspects of English while ignoring others.
“Woah, that’s a lot of stuff you’ve just given me, Anthony,” I hear you say.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
English class is not interesting
This is a result of the other 4 points on my list. This aspect depends on your teacher, but in general, students feel distraught from learning anything because:
- They’ve been doing the same lesson for the last 6 months,
- It’s all visual, nothing hands-on,
- and we spend multiple lessons for some quote-on-quote “Important, really scary test” we’ll be taking in 2 years.
In my high school, students learn English on a book basis, meaning every quarter, we read a book and learn about the book act by act.
So every lesson, we pick a chapter, a scene, or a passage and study it in full detail. The next day we do the next chapter/scene/passage.
Then the next one. And the one after that.
Until we finish our book altogether. Then it’s on to ANOTHER book.
Doesn’t sound very fun, does it? (It’s not.)
As I mentioned earlier, this really screws with someone who learns better using hands-on material or would rather listen, than read off the board. Meanwhile, lessons are not very intuitive because it’s just sheer memorization. (I highlighted this quote because it just about sums up a big chunk of English class.)
In the end, English class is not stimulating, nor something I, or anyone else in my class looks forward to.
And then you realize…
Preparation for tests class
…That most of what you learn in this class is to help you in some test.
We take a certain type of test… because it’ll come up in later years.
We learn about so and so… because it’ll be useful later.
We take lessons off to… okay, I think you get the gist of it.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I really get this dead feeling inside when everything I’m doing is to help the school get top marks on its test. (Which I’ll be taking sophomore year.)
Which brings me to by far one of the largest problems:
English class has some weird priorities
Lots of traditional aspects of English class, such as writing, are lacking a surprising amount. On the other hand, things like passage analysis and literary device usage is overemphasized. (Believe me, we have the literary devices memorized front to back.) Other parts of English, such as poetry, are completely missing. (Hopefully I’ll cover those in the future.)
I’d like to wrap up this conversation by offering a solution.
Remember the British curriculum I was talking about?
Let’s take a look at a British English class and look at where we can borrow ideas from.
In my British class, we had:
- Open discussions every day where we all participated and shared our ideas about the books we read, as opposed to the teacher feeding us a one-sided explanation of how “it was supposes to be interpreted.” Sometimes someone contributed a very interesting idea and changed the outlook on the text entirely.
- Wrote analytically, poetically, and creatively, as opposed to just commentaries. We would combine texts into acts that we would perform, boosting confidence and improving understanding.
- Little emphasis on tests. Test preparation was intuitively ingrained in every activity we did, rather than pointed out and focused on.
- Used real-life applications to the texts we read.
In my opinion, this seems to fix all, if not most, of the problems with high school English class.
The only question now is…
What do YOU think? Should we go British, or is the system fine as it is?