04 March 2009

In English, or Not In English?

No, I'm not talking about speaking other languages. Actually, today, I'm talking about subject English - that thing you learn at school.

First, though, I totally cheated; there is now a Monday post just below dissecting Anette's sentence. I blame my lack of home internet right now %-) But don't forget to go read it.

This year I've started what's affectionately known as a Grad Dip, meaning I'm studying teaching, and English is one of my subject areas. We had a suprisingly interesting discussion in class yesterday, and since the majority of my readers are writers, and thus can be expected to Have Opinions on Englishy type things, I was curious to see what you think :)

Bascially, the question is thus:

What is subject English?

Put another way, what should we be teaching in English in high schools (years 7+)? Grammar? Spelling? (Currently these are mostly done in primary school, which is Kindy - grade 6). Essay writing? Analysing novels? Analysing poems?

Yeah, okay, they're pretty standard things. But what about analysing films? What about learning critical thinking skills in relation to other types of texts and media? Internet-savvy-ness? Does that come into the scope of 'English'? What about analysis of advertising, or learning to use technology to get across a point? Do we study only 'literature'? What is 'literature'? Who gets to decide? Is that right or fair? Should we study pop culture novels, films and texts? Why, or why not?

Really, what is the point of subject English?

Speak to me, dear readers, and tell me your opinions.

And then go read ;)


Davin Malasarn said...

I think the most important part of school is just exposure to all the great art in the world so that when kids are old enough to actually appreciate them, they don't feel so intimidated. In that sense, it doesn't matter to me too much what style teachers end up using.

But, sometimes all this analysis of themes and symbols turns kids off of books, and that's the worst thing. Whe I write, I don't think about theme and symbols. I write for emotion and entertainment, and if students are allowed to talk about that stuff, they might enjoy their classes more.

Inkblot said...

I agree to some extent. I think we should definitely allow kids to 'just enjoy' what they're reading - but I think part of a good education is learning to think critically, and as much as I sometimes hated it, I now recognise the beginnings of that in dissecting novels in high school English.

As for themes - I think we need to emphasis that works can have multiple themes, and that the theme one person gets out of it might not be what the writer intended - but that there is a core of meaning that dosen't change in a text - otherwise we'd never be able to understand it at all.

Finally, themes as writers... Well, personally I believe the more you know about what you're writing, the stronger you're able to write it. So I'm a big believer in having at least some idea of what you're trying to say in your book, even if it's something as simple as 'power corrupts' (a la Lisa Shearin, Jim Butcher, etc).

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