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Alex Torres

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English and History classes: Necessities?

I am in the IB program at my high school, and am required to take Higher Level English ad Higher Level History. During history class one day, my teacher was talking to me about the necessity of history class, but to most students the class still seemed "pointless." My teacher's viewpoint is that history class serves as a class to educate the students about how society functions, and the failures and successes in society through political, economic, and social changes.

Some of the students in my class argue that the basic concepts are to be studied, but not the in-depth knowledge of the subject.

In the US, should history classes teach students about the government functions most importantly? We all work in the society, and we all should have historical (and economic) knowledge to have an input in the current government (locally and worldly).

Some students, by high school, know what they want to study, while others do not.

The reason some students are arguing the value of history classes is because the depth of the class is too much for what is needed to be known and understood. The major areas in the world are history (political), and sciences, in terms of school classes that we, students, take. In the IB program most students are interested in the sciences, being able to take organic chemistry in high school or college-level biology 2. They want to further their education.

As for English classes, all I see is learning more about writing skills (essays, voice, tone...)

Current suggestions for discussion: Should the education system have classes, such as US Government and economics, required in elementary to sophomore year of high school, while not requiring further history classes in a student's junior and senior years of high school?

I would appreciate your input on:
How English and History are necessities? To what extent?
How should the education system change in terms of history and english classes, if they should even change?

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    Sep 22 2013: History teaches you where the world has F'd up, which is infinitely more than they will tell you. ( do a search on Lincoln here on TED and see how it matches up with your history class)

    English is how you communicate. To the degree you are able to understand the meaning and formation of the words you are reading is the degree that you will be successful in life. This is a BIG deal. What is a preposition? What percentage of the words you read are prepositions? That percentage is how much of what you have read you don't understand. Many will not agree with me on this and they would be wrong.
    • Sep 22 2013: Most high schools now refer to English classes as literature classes, and not grammar. In English classes grammar is assumed to have been learned already. However, nominative case pronouns cannot be differentiated from objective case pronouns today.

      The literature we read does allow for critical thinking, which is good.
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        Sep 22 2013: "However, nominative case pronouns cannot be differentiated from objective case pronouns today."

        Where they ever?

        So what is a preposition?

        "The literature we read does allow for critical thinking, which is good."

        Logic is a BIG deal and is it's own study that is not picked up by studying math or literature.

        Imo the topics of grammar, logic, and history will serve you well.

        The fact that you don't see that tells me that you need to find or LOOK for more ways that this stuff is useful.

        If you don't understand the grammar words you are not fully understanding what you are studying.
        With history it is useful to know what occurred beyond the bromides that the schools teach you unless you are content to be an automaton. Logic is a vital tool to cut through the crap and discern what is true which is the road to freedom.
  • Sep 22 2013: History - nice to know and discuss but suggest what is needed is an in depth project to understand the topic -

    But English is really necessary. You have no idea how many engineers, computer scientists, computer programmers i have had to send to classes to learn how to write and make presentations. Writing and reading for understanding are still very necessary.
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    Sep 22 2013: Alex, First congratulations in participating in the International Baccalaureate program. I am retired from the military, Aircraft Industry, and public service (various branches of the Justice system). I can assure you that at some point in your life you will write reports, fill out forms, provide statements, give a speech, etc ... The ability to communicate both written and oral cannot be over stated. Ask any parent who relies on instructions to assemble kids Christmas gifts ... usually not a happy experience. Lawyers make a living off of using your words against you. Billion dollar deals may rest on a poorly written clause. Elections are won or lost on wording, presentation, and the ability to influence through written statements and speeches.

    History is a "living document". It is one of the most valuable of courses. It not only tells us of where we have been but where we are going. It covers disciplines across the board. As a example: Was the US Civil War fought for slavery or Economics. While most would answer Slavery the educated would understand it was Economics. If you read the cause and effect of Argentina's rise to world prominence and what caused the total crash you could steer clear of repeating that failure.

    When countries are taken over ... what are the first things that occur. 1) media of all sorts are taken over, 2) Libraries are closed, 3) education is restructured to indoctrinate the masses ... many other things occur but these are essential .... a educated enemy is a danger.

    And finally, The course content is not up to the instructor. The power in education in the textbook writers and the test developers. The direction is now being determined by the federal government through STEM and CORE ... non compliance means reduced or elimination of funding.

    Teacher options are becoming very few. Teachers hoops to jump through are higher and smaller than ever before.

    Yes they should change .. add more.

    Be well
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    Sep 22 2013: English provides you the skill to communicate,history is the mirror that reflects previous reality and wisdom,through which we learn to deal with real life challenges. Both are absolutely necessities.

    Imagine,who would you be like if you were not taught English and history?
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    Sep 22 2013: teaching a language to native speakers is a total waste of time. they already can communicate, and all else is etiquette. so either teach etiquette on all levels, or not at all. but it has nothing to do with english language, just as the etiquette of eating does not tell anything about nutrition.

    history is another story. the teacher was surprisingly insightful and self aware with "history class serves as a class to educate the students about how society functions". teaching history is pretty much the most important class in government mandated school systems. it is the place of misdirecting the child through misrepresentations and blatant lies about rulers and the state, so he does not question the status quo. the amount of lies taught is shocking.
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      Sep 22 2013: When a high school student in the United States refers to English class, it is not a class in which he is learning to speak English. A high school English class is a class in which students read, discuss, and write about literature written in English, typically mostly fiction but also some essay and some poetry. Some work will be read in translation. For example, an English class may read Tolstoy or Balzac or ancient Greek drama. An English class may read science fiction or the graphic novel.

      So when someone asks whether studying English in the last two years of high school is valuable, the question is really whether reading, thinking about, discussing, and writing about ideas suggested in literature are valuable.
      • Sep 22 2013: Yes, that's the question! I really do not see the benefits nor the drawbacks of taking the classes. The only real benefit would be writing, and expressing ideas better.
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          Sep 22 2013: Your literature class gives you an opportunity to think with your peers about life situations and the human condition in different contexts and from different perspectives, to develop your own theories on these questions and support them from the text, and, as you say, to present your ideas effectively orally and in writing.

          If your readings are chosen well, you will see a sampling of the great themes and questions that have occupied thinkers through the ages. You will be unlikely to encounter much of this content in the media you normally consume, and are particularly unlikely to encounter the variety of perspectives and arguments that have been put forward articulately on these questions over time.

          You are in an IB program, which means the aspiration for you is to move beyond basic literacy to more mature habits of questioning and reasoning about the world around you, both in the present and in a larger, more universal context.

          Then an IB program would want to guide you in developing your ability to question and reason about big ideas.

          Universities in the United States will typically look for such courses on your transcript also, because they prefer students who have already had such experience in addressing serious ideas. The university can then pick up from there.
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        Sep 22 2013: interestingly, i was told about that numerous times, but i keep forgetting, since it makes zero sense. it should be called "literature", as it is, everywhere else.

        literature is a mixed bag. it is part analysis of human nature and life situations, part the same propaganda from the ruling class. whether it is necessary is a whole different story. at least in hungary, the way it is taught is very ineffective, thus simply throwing it out would make a little difference.
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      Sep 22 2013: Understanding written or spoken material is not a "binary".

      Perhaps if the majority understood those history books better the world would be different i.e. you wouldn't have to reapeat basic economics into perpetuity.

      The missing link is grammar and the definitions of words or to be more exact the misunderstanding of them.

      This is just a fact.
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        Sep 22 2013: my attention was called that we are talking about literature class, not grammar class. i was talking about grammar. i can assert that the number of native speakers became better communicators by learning grammar is zero. it is simply not the way to improve.

        the way to improve is to read and write. it certainly improves skills. it does not necessarily improve understanding though. language is a way to express and absorb knowledge. processing is not automatically included.

        i wonder what kind of classes an american school has that improves thinking. i can't think of any in a hungarian school.
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          Sep 22 2013: Almost any class under the supervision of the right teacher can improve thinking. The same class taught by a different teacher may instead be a year of missed opportunities.
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          Sep 22 2013: This is exactly my point I MISUNDERSTOOD what the OP meant by the word ENGLISH, which I thought was grammar. Truthfully I would lay you odds what they really need is to really get grammar.

          The vast majority of the posters on TED dont use a modicum of logic.
  • Sep 29 2013: I am currently in my last year of high school and applying to universities now.
  • W T 100+

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    Sep 29 2013: What year of high school are you in?
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    Sep 29 2013: Thank you for bringing up this very important topic, When I was in School I felt the same necessity and my arguments were same as you have put forward. At that time I was not in the position to assess. But now I can do English has become as One of the flexible Global Language, Vocabulary is vast and English as written and Vocal has become very important to face world and put across your idea confidently, My experience says that Knowledge is important, but to know how to communicate that knowledge is very important. Otherwise the result will be not what you are expecting. Written English is important but try to give Spoken English more importance as It is the speech that creates first impression.

    A very valid point you have raised about what should be included in History subjects? at the elementary level it should be more of grooming and creating interest on the subjects, I remember I use to byheart the dates and theory in order to gain marks only, which should not be the case. At much later stage after understanding the politics of in and around the geographic region my interested started developing and wanted to know how India got independence the real reason who all were the real Leaders in the Past who fought for our freedom, what was the history of our religion Hinduism and about the great emperor. But Mind you for these answers I did not follow history textbook as every thing in the textbook is projected and try to influence our mind. I did my own research and came to conclusions which is very Important.
    At school and higher secondary level we should be informed about various policies that are framed for the people and how it is framed, updated Program and plans that are organised by the Govt, what are the rights and how can we fight for our rights, Importance of participation putting your view. About the functioning of governments and presently who is holding what post, How the economic system run etc these is necessary for the grooming of good citizen.
  • Sep 29 2013: That's a good idea! I like how the class would be structured primarily by today's society, problems, and plans, and the branches off by learning why some plans may work or may not work. That history would be essential!
  • Da Way

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    Sep 29 2013: My idea of an ideal history class would be something like this:

    You start them young, say 8 yrs old. Rather than start chronologically, you can have it theme based. E.g. Today's theme is society and governments. You start off with the question 'So, if you were to design a government for your society, what would it be like?' and give them a few guides and ideas to start off with to help them structure it.
    Then once they've had a chance to think about it, you take them through their simulated model and say 'well, this will work well, look how this historical society or culture florished for adapting your idea' or 'look, there is a potential problem with this ideaology, look at this war and that war and those were the reasons behind the wars'. Use real historical examples to back up your lesson, that way the kids will not only remember them well, they'll be more interested because they're involved.

    Ofcourse, you'll have to be a really good historian to start off with to be able to pull this off.
  • Sep 22 2013: I've always found history class to be a form of indoctrination. Teaching the children what the government wants them to know, to keep them patriotic and nationalistic.
    History is often portrayed in the classroom as a vastly oversimplified black and white affair, with "good guys" and "bad guys", grocery lists of causes and effects (that students are typically encouraged to memorize rather than understand), and glossing over of any more complex or ambiguous stuff.

    Teaching history most definitely has its place. The only way to make sure the leaders of the future avoid the mistakes of the past is to have them be familiar with the subject manner, and one cannot predict whom will be a future leader, forcing you to teach everyone. Just not in the manner its done in most of the world.

    Language is simpler as far as I'm concerned. An emphasis should be placed on use of language as a tool--understanding complex written text, learning to write eloquently to better communicate, and generally increase people's overall level of language skills.
    Studying literary classics on the other hand, while potentially quite interesting in its own right, always seemed to me of little practical value.
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    Sep 22 2013: If we were to mandate logic, philosophy and sociology at an earlier stage in education, the purposes behind the need to have history and english classes would be more self apparent. We need to recognize the world is larger, the world is global and we need to educate our children on a broader level at a younger age. Our educational system is "focused" and the beam needs to be broader to showcase how fun education really can be. Our youth is the not the youth of my generation or my mothers, our youth has more tools, more knowledge, more opportunities and more pitfall, we must revamp our educational structure to recognize these worldwide changes.
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      Sep 22 2013: Education structure is an ever-changing system, it changes in the pace and scope that you might not recognize it. The textbooks are being changed,new ingredient is being ingrained to book each year. Positively,this system is slowly upgrading. What you are talking about maybe is the reform or overhaul of our education system,this might apply in some certain point of the history. Need a social consensus to carry out any leaps and bounds in the progress of education system. Apparently,how you were raised is significantly different from the way your child is being raised.
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    Sep 22 2013: Someone has said that failure to learn from history is doomed to repeat it. I have read some history.... repetition is a very scary proposition.. since the first caveman bonked his neighbor to take his leg of mammoth, war has become the seemingly preferred way of settling disputes. Better yet, man has gotten so good at it. So much for history. Gloss over it on the way to the next battle field.
    English. It is my second language. I have been considered barely literate. In my defense, it is a most difficult form of communication with hundreds of thousand of words that express a really few basic concepts. Even the word innuendo has a number of variations of meaning. I think it is important to be fluent in language, but I am limited in the defense of that position.
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    Sep 22 2013: I think if your native language and culture is English,you should learn it well.. One should learn his native language and culture well first, then turn to other language and cultures.If he can't master his mother-tongue, how can he learn other language well and communicate his country to others?
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    Sep 22 2013: Language is a primary factor of tribal identity.

    The question of accepting english as a first or second language is important for alliance between tribes.
    Those who adopt it are stating a communication advantage over those who do not.

    Language is a statement of political allegiance - it is not a statement of cultural identity - within every language, there are an unlimited amount of sub-choices that identify special interests - this is called "jargon" or "idiom" or "accent of pronunciation"

    The base- language has no influence on sub-tribe identity any more. Once it did .. no more.

    After a thousand years of language politics, it is clear that no specific language serves local and personal interests. Accept English - it is the language of the unification of the tribes - your local idiom, jargons and accents are sufficient to retain tribal identity.

    As a millennial hybrid language, English is powerful to your region - other deeper traditions are not.

    Keep your special words - for your tribe.

    Let English be the language that tribes speak to each other.

    I think this is important.

    Not that I particularly like English - But it is here - and we can use it.
    Let's just use it.

    At least as the second-language.
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    Sep 22 2013: In China, we learn Chinese and history. I also think people should pay more attention to their children's native languagie learning than English learning. As to history,We have 5000years' history and I always think people who learn all kinds of history usually have greater savvy and insight about the society and the mudane. They can learn a lot from the history and view things in a macro-angle as well as low angles.So regarding the necessity, I think your idea is good.