Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If you want to know why...

I have yet to hear anyone ask a teacher of math to justify teaching their subject matter. Even those who teach history are not asked to do so. But teach English and the question is asked by many: "What good will any of this ever do me?" Teachers of English, particularly those who teach literature, are the unloved step children in the yeshiva educational system--barely tolerated but certainly not valued. And yet, we continue on, being bolstered on rare occasion by the exceptional student who not only gets us but gets our subject matter. We continue doing what we do because we know something our students don't--that yes, some day something we have taught them just might prove to be of use after all.

That's why the latest posting by The Rebbetzin's Husband resonates with me--clearly a student who "got it" and who found out what good it would do him many years after class was over. If you're still looking for the answer to that question, pop on over and see how the Rabbi answered it.


efrex said...

I am flabbergasted that anyone could question the value of a strong English education. Having a good command of written English is quite possibly the most important skill in getting hired or promoted in today's business environment, regardless of what field one is in, particularly in today's world of instant communications. Ask any HR person, and he'll give you stories of dozens of possibly qualified candidates for a position who got instantly rejected due to poor spelling or grammar on their cover letters and resumes.

I recently gave a talk to science students at my not-quite alma mater, and I emphatically stated that the most important skill that they could develop, outside of their technical skills, was the ability to write and present well.

Many a yeshiva student gets so used to speaking "yeshivish" English that they use it in their communications. It does not go over so well in the professional world.

As for the literary skills: while I agree that such techniques are quite useful for interpreting t'filla and parsha, it is not necessary to learn them in an English class. Theoretically, yeshivot could teach such skills directly (of course, that presupposes rebbe'im who know and appreciate such studies...)

Archie Bunker said...

I have yet to hear anyone ask a teacher of math to justify teaching their subject matter

From my experience most of the resentment about teachers/schools forcing us to learn things we couldn't care less about,and that have no practical life value, was focused on math, and to a lesser degree, science.

Honestly even today, twenty years later, I still think those points are valid.I would of strongly preferred learning, first aid, car mechanics, home repair, understanding general health & medications etc., over the long forgotten algebra & chemistry, I was force fed.

As far as English is concerned, that is one topic I do wish would of been stressed more.The teachers however, were too busy with verbs,predicates, and Shakespeare, to worry about teaching how to write a grammatically correct sentence, or the principles of spelling.

alpidarkomama said...

Anyone who teaches young men in yeshiva the proper usage of English in written and spoken forms gets kudos from me! In general, I find the style of English writing (and music!!!!!) these days (especially in frum children's literature) pretty appallingly trite. Thank you for being one of those teachers who is working to improve that situation!!!

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Thanks for your compliments as well as your link, and I am glad I brightened your day. I could continue for many, many posts in the vein of "How English literature has helped me learn as well as teach," but I'll stop with this for now.

I should note, though, that many of us challenged our Calculus professor regarding the real-world applications for students who would not continue in math.

Mikeinmidwood said...

Actually they say it about all subjects not just english.

ProfK said...

You are so right about English in the business world. My Business Writing students have noted that I give more work than any professor they have ever had and am more insistent upon "perfection" in that work than anyone else also. So? Some of them, those who have never held a job outside of being a camp councilor, can't believe that English is as important as I tell them it is. Thankfully the students who are already working soon dispell them of the notion that I'm nuts.

Sure, we all of us would have liked school to teach us only what we wanted to learn but it doesn't work that way. Just a note: verbs and predicates are both part of writing a grammatical sentence.

Thanks for the words of encouragement.

Go figure--my husband is one who complains that they didn't give enough calculus and higher order math and forced him to take art history instead.

Yeah, you're right. Apparently all teachers get students who don't see why they should be taking just about every subject taught. I actually found a friend whose complaint was that they made them take PE when she would rather have been hibernating with a book in the library.

Anonymous said...

Yeh, it's not just English. I remember people asking our math teachers "why are we learning this? Am I ever going to have to find tan theta in real life?"

The teachers generally don't have a good answer, but they should:

1 - being able to find tan theta can be useful indeed, as illustrated here. http://badforshidduchim.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/1486/

2 - it teaches you a way of thinking which can be useful. Problem solving, analytic thinking, etc.

3- math is the basis of much of our world. Everything boils down to math, or could be boiled down. It's worthwhile to get just a little peek at this marvelous phenomenon.

free dating said...

English is the linguistic engine that drives the global economy. If you look at the most important communications and transportation innnovations in the last 150 years, nearly all of them were invented by English speakers, so their documentation was in English. The others were either invented by people working in English-speaking countries or were later widely disseminated by English-speaking innovators. Dauguerre invented photography, but Eastman made it portable and available to the masses. Benz invented the internal combustion engine, but Ford mass produced it and made it available to the masses. English has been the sole linguistic engine driving this process. Therefore, in order to truly participate in globalization and the global economy, English is absolutely critical. Countries such as Hungary and Ukraine have recognized this fact and made English a compulsory subject in primary education.

ProfK said...

free dating,

Yes, English drives the global machine. Given that fact, it's very ironic that we have not yet been able to get English passed as the official language of the US.