“How will this class help me?”
February 6, 2014
As long as there have been schools, there has been the exasperated complaint of students wondering “How will this class help me?” The Red Ledger has set out to answer this question for six main subjects of education including foreign languages, maths, sciences, fine arts, history, literature, humanities, and journalism. A new edition will be posted every Thursday starting February 6 and ending March 13 revealing what these courses can help with in the long-term.
“This is America – I only need to speak English here. I shouldn’t have to learn some other country’s language.”
“What’s the point of studying a foreign language anyway when almost every other country is learning English as a Second Language?”
“No comprendo nada?!”
Compared to their foreign counterparts, American students are falling significantly behind, not in math or science, but in another critical area of academic success – foreign language. According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, only 18 percent of Americans report being capable of speaking a language other than English, while 53 percent of Europeans can converse proficiently in a second language. It does not appear that this deficit will change in the near future, as only 18.5 percent of students enrolled in public schools were receiving instruction in a foreign language.[sidebar title=”Foreign language courses offered on campus” align=”left”]
- Pre-AP Spanish I
- Pre-AP Spanish II
- Pre-AP Spanish III
- AP Spanish Language (IV)
- AP Spanish Literature (V)
- Pre-AP French I
- Pre-AP French II
- Pre-AP French III
- AP French Language (IV)
- American Sign Language I
- American Sign Language II
- American Sign Language III
- Pre-AP Chinese I
- Pre-AP Chinese II
- Pre-AP Chinese III
While the current foreign language requirement in the state of Texas is two years for the standard high school diploma and three years for the Distinguished Achievement Program, some states, such as Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, have no statewide foreign language requirements for graduation, and approximately one in ten high schools nationwide do not even offer foreign language courses. In the state of Washington, students pursuing a “career emphasis” education could substitute other courses for the World Languages classes.
However, students on campus and experts from around the world have differing beliefs than some of these policymakers, maintaining that, in today’s increasingly globalized world, knowledge of a foreign language is a huge asset in professional endeavors.
“Spanish is a language that essentially an entire hemisphere can understand,” senior and AP Spanish Literature student Caitlin Rice said. “It has given me the desire and ability to learn about other cultures directly from the citizens and native speakers.”
After graduating this spring, Rice will be attending Texas A&M University, where she will use her passion for foreign languages to study both Business Management and Spanish Language and Culture in the hope of operating a business that operates in multiple countries.
“I intend to keep studying Spanish so that I can become officially bilingual,” Rice said. “I hope to pursue a career where I can use my language skill often.”
Having an ample number of citizens who speak a foreign language, according to Duncan, is critical to national security, prosperity in the international business field, and the overall success of the nation.
“To prosper economically and to improve relations with other countries, Americans need to read, speak, and understand a foreign language,” Duncan said in a 2010 statement.
While students who speak foreign languages can still go into traditional jobs for foreign language students, such as being a translator, interpreter, teacher, the Peace Corps, or the tourism industry, more jobs than ever are recruiting multilinguals. Polyglots and foreign language students work as business executives, physicians, public relations, banking and finance, journalists, foreign correspondents, advertising, telecommunications, film and entertainment, federal agencies, historians, authors, engineers, software consultants, and small business owners.
“I will be studying Spanish in college, and most likely another language as well,” senior and AP Spanish Literature student Ryan Frome said. “Spanish will help me get a job because it is a benefit when employers see that you can speak Spanish.”
Spanish teacher Marilyne Gengoux pursued her passion in foreign languages by studying Applied Foreign Languages, a combination of English, Spanish, and Chinese applied to the field of International Business, while in college in her native country, France.
“There are many reasons why languages are important to learn,” Gengoux said. “For later on in the future, depending on what job you want to do, it is important to have knowledge of a different language. Even within the United States, it is important to learn foreign languages, especially in Texas since we are so close to Mexico.”
Gengoux’s studies in foreign languages opened up the opportunity for her to study abroad in the United States at Washburn University in Kansas, an experience that she enjoyed so much that she decided to ultimately return to the United States to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Washburn and work as a teacher in the American school system.
According to the Institute of International Education, nine percent of American undergraduate students studied abroad in the course of their education, with nearly a quarter of those studying abroad in Spain and Latin America.
“I plan on continuing Spanish classes into college,” junior and AP Spanish Language student Colin Cross said. “I for sure want to do a semester abroad, whether it’s in Latin America or Spain. To be honest, I want to be able to claim fluency.”
In addition to the future benefits of speaking a second language in the workforce and for studying abroad, speaking foreign languages has already proven beneficial to students.
“Speaking Spanish has already opened up a whole lot of doors, including the ability to travel to and volunteer in Costa Rica, which was a very important experience for me,” Cross said.
Frome, who is part Mexican, first became interested in studying Spanish to communicate with her Spanish-speaking family members.
“I took a month long trip to Mexico over the summer to visit family, and being able to speak Spanish helped me to communicate while there,” Frome said.
While speaking Spanish has been beneficial to students while abroad, one doesn’t need to drive very far to put their language skills into practice.
According to the latest census data, 22.4 percent of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex population are native Spanish speakers who speak primarily Spanish, and whose knowledge of the English language ranges from none whatsoever to being fluent.
Beyond practical uses, the ability to speak a foreign language can, according to studies, boost overall brain functioning and critical thinking skills.
- Bilingual students tended to outperform their monolingual peers on standardized tests, particularly in the areas of reading, math, and vocabulary.
- Speaking a second language makes students more effective communicators, improves their ability to communicate in their native language, and makes them more sensitive to the discrete sounds and nuances of languages.
- According to Spain’s University of Pompeu Fabra, bilinguals have better working memories and are better at observing their surroundings than their monolingual peers.
- The mean age of Alzheimer’s onset for monolingual adults was 71.4 years, while the mean age of onset for bilingual adults was 75.5 years, indicating that the ability to speak a foreign language may help to prevent and minimize the effect of debilitating neurodegenerative diseases.
However, for some students, the decision to study Spanish, or any foreign language, is not a decision based on practicality, rather, it comes from passion, motivation, and pure fascination with the idea of learning about a new language and culture.
“I’ve loved Spanish ever since elementary school when my mother befriended a Mexican woman who was fluent,” Rice said. “There was never any question about whether I would continue studying it.”
With international travel and business having increased in recent years, the number of American passport holders has reached an all-time-high with nearly 110 million people, approximately one-third of the population, own a passport and have traveled beyond U.S. borders.
“People are traveling more frequently, and people’s jobs are leading them to meet and work with people from different countries,” Gengoux said. “The world is no longer a confined place anymore.”
Literature and humanities
“And what exactly do you expect to do with that major?”
“How in the world will that help you get a job?”
With rising college costs and a more competitive job market, the study of the humanities is in decline, losing out to more technical, vocational-related fields of study. However, according to employers and educators, the study of the humanities and liberal arts is not only important, but vital, to personal and professional success in today’s increasingly interconnected and multicultural world.[sidebar title=”Literature, humanities, and history courses offered on campus” align=”left”]
- Pre-AP English I
- Pre-AP English II
- Pre-AP English III
- English IV
- ESOL I
- ESOL II
- AP Literature
- Dual Credit English 1301/1302
- Influences of the Bible
- Humanities I
- Humanities II
- The Story of War: Fiction at the Battlefront
- A World Beyond: Fantasy, Science, Fiction, & Heroic Adventures
- Pre-AP World Geography
- AP Human Geography
- Pre-AP World History
- AP World History
- U.S. Government
- AP U.S. Government/ Politics
- AP Macroeconomics
- Dual Credit Macroeconomics
- Dual Credit American Government I
- AP European History
- AP Art History
- AP Psychology
“Undergraduates will tell you that they are under pressure – from their parents, from the burden of debt they will incur, from society at large – to choose majors that they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs,” Verlyn Klinkenbourg said in her New York Times column “The Decline and Fall of the English Major”. “There is a new and narrowing vocational emphasis in the way students and parents think about what to study in college. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.”
Klinkenbourg notes that, in 1991, 165 students graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in English Literature, and that by 2012, that number was 62. Additionally, while history and English were the two most popular majors at Yale in 1991, the most popular major at Yale in 2012 was economics.
A recent article by Fred Smith examining the distribution of degrees awarded to American college students in recent years praised the fact that college students were starting to avoid getting what he called “stupid” degrees, stating that graduates of non-vocationally oriented programs were at a disadvantage to those with degrees such as business, nursing, engineering and so forth. However, some proponents of a liberal arts-oriented education argue that a broad program of study can be more valuable to students in their professional future than a vocation-specific degree would.
“Flexibility, creativity, critical thinking, and strong communication skills – particularly writing – are at the core of a liberal arts education and are critical to success today and in the future,” Carol T. Christ, president of Southampton College in Massachusetts, said in a column for the American Council on Education. “It’s not surprising that a recent survey by the American Association of Colleges and Universities shows that more than three-quarters of employers would recommend an education with a liberal arts emphasis to a young person they know.”
Even for students planning on going into a field in business or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), a liberal arts education and courses in fields such as history, philosophy, and English teach vital skills that prepare them for their intended careers.
“Just as mathematics is considered to be a good exercise for the brain even for those who will never use calculus in the future, so is the study of great books, history, languages, music, and many other non-science fields likely to hone a scientist’s skill to perceive and interpret the natural world,” Noble prize winning biochemist and professor Thomas R. Cech said.
One elective class on campus, humanities, provides students with an interdisciplinary foundation in the liberal arts, and adds to information taught in history, English, and fine arts classes.
“Humanities is a class where students study the life, literature, art, music, science, religion, and philosophy of the time,” Humanities and English III teacher Amy Olsen said. “Humanities covers approximately from 1400-2013. This year, we have studied the Italian Renaissance, painted a landscape, read A Midsummer’s Night Dream by Shakespeare, listened to and studied Baroque music, and discussed the philosophies of the 18th century, to name a few topics covered.”
To Olsen, the study of the humanities is an important part of a well-rounded education.
“We, as humans, are products of our times, so it is important to know about what life was like in the past because often our own life experiences are very similar,” Olsen said. “Literature, art, and music all express human emotion and passion.”
Reading literature is more than just entertainment to Olsen, it is educational, and teaches students lessons, values, and morals that no other subject can.
“I love teaching English and Humanities because I think that every student, if open and willing, can connect with an idea in a novel, an essay, a poem, a painting, or a symphony,” Olsen said.[sidebar title=”The Must-Read List of the LHS English Department” align=”right”]
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Great Gatsby
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Brave New World
- Into the Wild
- The Crucible
- Of Mice and Men
- The Catcher in the Rye
- In Cold Blood
- Pride and Prejudice
- A Separate Piece
- anything by John Green or Khaled Hosseini
- The Great Gatsby
- East of Eden
- Jane Eyre
One of the most widely read novels on campus is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, which follows the lives of a group of characters living on Long Island during the summer of 1922, including the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his new neighbor, Nick Carraway, and Nick’s cousins, Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Despite the fact that Gatsby was published almost 90 years ago, its themes still connect to students and current events today, who read it here during Pre-AP English II.
“The Great Gatsby and other classics have themes that transcend time. That is why they connect with readers year after year,” English II and creative writing teacher Michele Riddle said. “For example, in The Great Gatsby, Nick [the protagonist and narrator] comments on 1920s society, saying that they were careless people that smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money, letting other people clean up the mess they had made. This of course is true of the characters in the novel and the people in the time period, but we also see examples of this today with Justin Bieber and other celebrities’ arrests and inappropriate behavior. Bieber’s smug smile in his mugshot shows how confident he is that his money will get him out of any problem he may have, just like the characters in The Great Gatsby.”
Gatsby is among the top ten books taught in high school English classes across the nation, and has been read by millions of people around the world.
“[Gatsby] taught me that love is sometimes painful, and that it is best to cut your losses and not hold onto the past,” sophomore Heidi Zettl said.
In addition to teaching valuable lessons, reading can help develop skills that will help students on standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT.
“It is important for everyone to be well-rounded and well-read,” Olsen said. “Reading is one of the best ways to improve writing skills and develop a broader vocabulary.”
Even novels not considered to be classics still can have an impact on a student.
“Novels by John Green are not considered classics, but these novels seem to connect with high school students in a way that few books published recently have,” Riddle said. “His books should be added to any ‘must read before graduating high school’ list.”
In addition to four years of English, the state of Texas requires students to complete further studies in the humanities by finishing two years of history, one year of world history and one year of U.S. History.
“Citizens are not born capable of ruling,” Thomas Jefferson once said. “They must be educated to rule wisely and fairly. They must be drawn out from the egotism of childhood and the privacy of their homes into the public world of democratic reasoning, deliberation, and consensus. This requires not only civility, but knowledge and skill.”
By studying history, students are taught essential skills for good citizenship , an understanding of both their own and other societies, and develop strong critical reading and analytical skills, according to a report by Calvert County Public Schools in Maryland.
“[AP World History] has taught me that everyone in the world is more similar than they are different,” Zettl said.
Recent statistics state why many proponents of liberal arts education caution against a strictly vocational education.
“One never knows where life will take them,” Olsen said. “Having a broad base of knowledge can lead to new opportunities and experiences.”
They Studied liberal arts and humanities in college (and made it):
George W. Bush – U.S. President (history, Yale University); Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – U.S. first lady and book editor (French literature, George Washington University); Katie Couric – journalist (American Studies, University of Virginia); Kanye West – rapper (English, Chicago State University); Jodie Foster – actress (Literature, Yale University); Ashley Judd – actress (French, history, and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky); Sacha Baron Cohen – actor (history, University of Cambridge); Jake Gyllenhaal – actor (Eastern Religion and philosophy, Columbia University); Peter Thiel – founder and CEO of PayPal (philosophy, Stanford University); Sheila Bar – FDIC Chairwoman (philosophy, University of Kansas); A.G. Lafley – former Proctor and Gamble CEO (French and history, Hamilton College); Anne Mulcahy – former Xerox CEO (English, Marymount College); Ted Turner – CNN founder (classics, Brown University); Michael Eisner – former Disney CEO (English and Theatre, Denison University); Sam Palmisano – former IBM CEO (history, Johns Hopkins University); Judy McGrath – former MTV CEO (English, Cedar Crest College).
Math and science
“Right, because I’m really going to be using Calculus and Trigonometry after I graduate.”
“Why does it matter if America is falling behind other nations in school? We’re still the best!”
“Because, really, someone is going to whip out a right triangle and make me use the Pythagorean Theorem.”
Science and technology form the basis for the nation’s success in the international economy and marketplace, healthcare and public safety, defense, and countless other fields, and is essential to teaching tomorrow’s leaders critical thinking and problem solving skills.
“International comparisons of student achievement show that U.S. K-12 students’ performance in science and mathematics is mediocre compared with that of students in other countries, especially those in East Asia,” according to the National Science Foundation’s article “America’s Pressing Challenge – Building a Stronger Foundation.”
In 2012, a comparison of 15-year-olds in 65 nations around the world found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 31st, while average U.S. math scores ranked 23rd.
“The highest-scoring U.S. math students are nowhere near their peers in top-ranking countries,” Martin Carnoy, a professor of education at Stanford University, said in a Los Angeles Times article, “Are America’s students falling behind the world?”.
A lack of competitiveness in the fields of science and mathematics has serious long-term effects on the nation’s performance in the global marketplace.
“We are lagging behind the rest of the world, and we are lagging it in pretty substantial ways,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “It has huge implications. I think it is a real economic imperative we have to educate our way to a better economy.”
From the Apollo missions to the development of the polio vaccine, many of mankind’s most lauded achievements in the past century have been the result of a strong foundation in the math and science fields.
“Investments in science and technology have driven economic growth and improvements in the quality of life in America for the past 200 years,” Neil Lane, science adviser to President Clinton, testified before Congress in 2000. “Science has generated new knowledge and new industries, created new jobs, ensured economic and national security, reduced pollution and increased energy efficiency, provided better and safer transportation, improved medical care, and increased living standards for the American people.”
According to Leonie Tills, a student from Germany who studied on campus last year as part of a year-long exchange and homestay program, even high-achieving schools such as Lovejoy pale in comparison to schools in Germany and other European nations.
“Schools are way harder in Germany than in America,” Tills said. “Some things I learned in 11th grade in America I knew from 9th grade in Germany. We definitely have more homework in Germany, and our exams are not as frequent as in the United States but get longer as we get older.”
Curriculum and education in foreign nations in Europe and especially East Asia tend to be examination driven and heavily geared towards preparing students for rigorous final examinations. In Germany, according to Tills, exams begin in 5th grade with forty-five minute tests and progressively increase in complexity and length to as long as four hours in 11th grade and six hours in 12th grade.
“We also do a lot of presentations and our oral marks and class participation count as more than two-thirds of our final grade,” Tills said.
While some American students find senior year to be the easiest year of high school and sometimes come down with the infamous “senioritis”, schools in Germany treat senior year differently.
“Senior year is the hardest here because the exams are not easy at all,” Tills said.
However, despite the fact that German students complete a more rigorous curriculum than their American counterparts, German students actually spend less time in class and sometimes are released from school as early as 1:30 in the afternoon.
“We rarely have any school spirit or cool events in school because we don’t spend as much time in school as they do in America, and there are not that many ‘fun’ classes,” Tills said.
American students log just as much time studying mathematics and science in their classrooms, but the nature of the instruction that they are receiving differs greatly from that of other countries. Additionally, students in Germany and Japan, on average, spend just as much time watching television as their American peers, and U.S. teachers assign more homework and spend more class time discussing it than teachers in Germany and Japan.
“Our problem is not merely the amount of time U.S. students and teachers spend on mathematics and science but what they do with the time they have,” former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley said.
A heavy focus on math and science education in China begins as early as third grade, when specialist teachers in specific areas of study are employed to teach students rather than having a single elementary school teacher that teaches all subjects to students.
Even without the looming pressures of international competition, the study of math and science is crucial to achievement in a variety of professional fields.
“Analytical and quantitative skills are sought by a wide range of employers,” according to the Cardiff University School of Mathematics in Wales, United Kingdom. “Mathematics plays a vital, often unseen, role in many aspects of modern life, such as space travel, safeguarding credit card details on the Internet, modelling the spread of epidemics, predicting stock market prices, and business decision making.”
Even when the concepts learned in math and science courses are not directly applied, students still use skills from those courses by applying them to real-life scenarios and problems facing them.
“As much as the mathematical and scientific knowledge help students, I think that it really is the critical thinking skills that are most important, because students learn to take concepts and apply them in a variety of ways,” AP Calculus AB and BC teacher Keith Christian said.
While many careers require some form of education beyond high school, courses on campus in the STEM fields provide students with an opportunity to become prepared for more advanced study in college and beyond.
While it typically takes at least four years of study beyond high school to gain entry-level employment into the STEM fields, high school courses provide students with the opportunity to prepare students for these challenging courses of study in college.
“In college, we’re seeing a lot more competition from foreign students, and also internal competition that we are the best and getting people ready to be the best,” Pre-AP and AP Chemistry teacher Jason Taylor said. “It is important that high school lays the foundation for science and math so that when students get to college they’re not struggling to succeed.”
Recently, the state of Texas changed the graduation requirements to where students on the Minimum High School Program need to complete only three credits of math (Algebra I, Geometry, and a third-year math such as Math Models or Advanced Quantitative Reasoning) and two credits of science (Biology and Integrated Physics and Chemistry). However, for the Recommended and Distinguished High School Programs, students must complete four credits of math (including Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and a fourth-year math, such as Pre-Calculus, AQR, or Math Models) and four years of science, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and a fourth-year science, such as Anatomy and Physiology, Forensic Science, AP Environmental Science, or AP Physics.
However, some students on campus, such as senior Shawna Mattathil, have gone beyond the requirements for study in science and math by taking a several additional courses in the fields. In addition to the courses required by the school for graduation, Mattathil has completed almost all math and science courses offered on campus – AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics, AP Statistics, AP Calculus AB and BC, Anatomy and Physiology, and Health Science.
“Although the classes were a challenge, I decided to take them because I plan on being a biology major next year,” Mattathil said. “I knew that having early exposure to the material would be very helpful.”
Although math and science courses consistently rank among the hardest courses offered on campus, they also teach students skills that last longer than the knowledge of how to set up a Punnett square or solving differential equations will.
“Unlike traditional high school classes, my AP Biology course is very self-taught and resembles a college class in that much of the material must also be learned outside of class by reading the textbook,” Mattathil said.
While many students who study math and science fields are planning on going into a field such as engineering or medicine, study of math and science leads to a many opportunities in a variety of workplace environments. With a background in a STEM field, a student could find themselves working as a Financial Analyst, a Computer and Information Systems Manager, a Pharmacist, a Personal Financial Advisor, or even an Air Traffic Controller (the median annual pay was $122,530, and the only education required is a training course with the Federal Aviation Administration).
“As the U.S. economy is evolving over time, our jobs are increasingly engineering and science jobs,” Taylor said.
However, regardless of which specific profession that an individual chooses to go into, studies in science and mathematics provide a solid foundation that fosters critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to analyze the world around them in order to develop innovative new technologies and solve the dilemmas and problems facing the world today.
“The great book of nature can be read only by those who know the language in which it was written,” the Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo once said. “That language is mathematics.”
Across the nation, schools and districts have been cutting funding for fine arts education, particularly in low-income school districts. However, many proponents of arts programs and education argue schools must provide opportunities for students to participate in the arts to become well-rounded and high-achieving students.
Contrary to many traditional subjects taught in schools such as algebra, physics, economics, or government, the arts provide students with a healthy outlet for stress and other strong emotions while potentially developing a passion in students that can lead to a lifelong love.
“Participation in the art programs has really given me an escape, has kept me relaxed over the years, and has let me do something that I love,” senior Alyssa Vogel said. “I think I’ll always keep it as a hobby, even though I don’t think I will major in it in college.”
For senior McKay Walters, who has taken significantly more fine arts courses than most students on campus (choir, theatre, and band all four years of high school), fine arts have provided an important creative outlet and an opportunity to grow as an individual.
“Fine arts helps us to be more well-rounded and to better ourselves, not just academically, but emotionally as well,” Walters said. “Fine arts allows me to express myself.”
With new educational policies that place a strong emphasis on test scores and education in traditional core subjects, creative fine arts-oriented classes are often forgotten in the policies designed to educate youth.
“For a lot of kids, art classes are a creative outlet,” art teacher Amanda Beller said. “Academics, in a traditional sense, are pushed on students from a pretty young age, so for them to have a place where they can express themselves visually is something that a lot of them need.”
The arts also provide students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, motivation to complete their studies and graduate from high school. Research has shown that low-income high school students who earned few or no fine arts credits were five times more likely not to graduate from high school than low-income students who earned many fine arts credits, and students who are at risk for not successfully completing their high school educations cite their participation in the arts among their reasons for staying in school.
Beyond a chance at some personal fulfillment, the arts also teach students skills, such as the ability to explain cause and effect, assess significance, make predictions, and frame and test hypotheses, all necessary for success in a variety of fields beyond the arts.
“AP Art History gives students critical thinking skills,” Beller said. “They are able to look at a piece of artwork that they have never seen before and infer what it could mean or what it is about.”
Students who take four years of art and music classes while in high school score, on average, 91 points higher on their SAT exams compared to students who only took a year or less of art and music classes.
For some students, the arts also provide vocational opportunities within the arts industry, which generates more than $300 billion annually and represents six percent of the gross national product of the United States.
All in all, fine arts can have a much greater impact on young adults than simply teaching them to memorize a monologue, to play an instrument, or analyze the paintings of Michelangelo.
“It is more than just appreciating art,” Beller said. “It is truly understanding art and being able to describe it to somebody else.”
Even with advances in technology, competition from rising nations and the ever-constant shadow of globalization looming over students’ shoulders, one key component of education has remained constant in the curriculum of schools across the nation: communication.
On campus, core courses and required electives such as AP English Language and Composition and Lovejoy Leadership (Speech and Communication Applications) and electives such as Journalism and Debate provide students with the skills necessary to become effective communicators in today’s world. For AP English Language, students gain opportunities to learn skills that prepare them for college and beyond.
“The skills that come forth from this class are especially beneficial, especially in college,” AP English Language teacher Jasen Eairheart said. “It teaches you to think, and it has a strong writing component.”
In addition to communicating information, AP English Language also teaches students to be informed perceivers of information in their daily lives.
“[In AP English Language], we also use media, such as advertisements and letters,” Eairheart said. “Every day we are constantly surrounded by media, whether it be music, a speech or even a love letter, and we try to get every single nuance out of it possible.”
Beyond writing research papers and rhetorical analyses, students in AP Language also learn to share their ideas and convince others.
“With writing we also look at persuasion and argument,” Eairheart said. “There will always be conflict in which you have to get your point of view across in the most effective ways possible.”
Aside from traditional English and communications courses, students in courses such as history, government, psychology and even biology are required to read and analyze texts, communicate through timed writing assignments and major research papers, possess adequate public speaking skills to present projects to classmates and engage in a debate over a particular subject area through a Socratic seminar.
“[AP English Language] helps students with college in general, because every professor wants his or her students to be able to think and write already,” Eairheart said. “[AP Language] is one of the most, if not the most, beneficial courses, holistically, to help get students through college. In college, there were very few classes where you don’t write, in my experience. I had to write essays for science, history, psychology, and social science classes. I think my math class was the only course that did not require a writing assignment.”
Another opportunity on campus for students to strengthen their communication and speaking skills is through the Speech and Debate team.
“Debate has helped me learn to be confident speaking in front of large groups of people, whether it be just your judge and observers or many people at a tournament,” junior Abby Orr said. “When I have to give a presentation in front of many people for school, it is helpful to know how to speak clearly without getting nervous.”
A variety of journalism courses on campus, such as newspaper production, allow students to gain practice writing news articles, editorials, features and columns that help teach them to develop effective written communication skills.
While some students participate in journalism programs to eventually go into the field, other students participate in journalism in high school and college to go into a wide range of fields including public relations, politics, government and law, blogging, social media management for companies, marketing and advertising, website design, technical and informative writing for companies and products, health education and communications, sports reporting, and grant writing and fundraising for nonprofit organizations, all which are supported by a foundation in the journalism field.
Nearly every career, however, can benefit from the writing, critical thinking, technological, leadership and investigative skills instilled through a journalism education, leaving endless professional opportunities for journalism students.
“Whether it’s yearbook, newspaper or broadcast, these classes prepare students for what it’s like to have a career in today’s world,” newspaper and broadcast adviser Brian Higgins said. “Whether it’s learning how to communicate clearly to a wide variety of audiences or working as a team on deadline, advanced journalism classes help prepare students for a multitude of career options as these classes do more than simulate a work environment; they are a work environment.”