The Need for a Well-Rounded Education

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by ptlanguage, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. ptlanguage

    ptlanguage Rookie

    Dec 16, 2006
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    Feb 12, 2019

    Fellow teachers: I would like your help. I am facing a challenging year this year. I have an abundance of our school's population who do not see the value of having a well-rounded education. I.E.: Why should I have to take English? I will never use Shakespeare, etc, etc. Their views are the same for all the core subjects: math, science, history.

    Would some of you give me a very easy and brief explanation as to why a well-rounded education is of benefit for all students and, for that matter, our whole population. Thank you so much.
  3. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

    Jun 27, 2014
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    Feb 13, 2019

    English teaches us to read and write skillfully. It is a necessary skill to acquire for proper communication in verbal and written form and certainly so in the workplace. And, yes, the vast majority of students will likely never need to read or quote Shakespeare in their daily lives or even in their futures jobs, but reading Shakespeare is still relevant today because the author created many modern phrases and the analysis aspect of reading his famous works helps one to think differently, which is just as important. Just like even if you don’t plan to go into a mathematical career, learning math teaches you to problem solve using logic and numerical reasoning, which you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Furthermore, being able to thoughtfully analyze Shakespearean plays and truly understand them can noticeably enhance one’s problem-solving skills.

    With that said, being well-rounded is becoming a job requirement in many places of employment because companies want you to not only be competent in your field of study or your trade or discipline, but to be well-rounded in all aspects as employees that are so tend to be more creative thinkers, better communicators, and more innovative problem solvers. Why? This is because they have more experiences and knowledge to draw from and they can utilize said knowledge to propose different solutions and think “outside the box” on a variety of different issues. After all, if they just have knowledge of a certain area and ONLY that area, then they are very limited in how they can think and in what they can do.

    Being well-rounded enables us to at least be cognizant of certain concepts and ideas and to potentially make decisions, however slight, about things we know little or moderately about. Another reason why it is important is because if you have zero exposure to anything outside of your degree focus or central area(s) of interest(s), then that automatically places you at a disadvantage any time you encounter something new. I mean, imagine if all you only knew about a small handful of things, like how to eat, drink, sleep, take care of yourself hygiene wise, and <insert job description>. Not only would you be a boring person, but how would you make decisions about your finances, your medical care, how would you know to search for information, to interpret popular and historical cultural references made about in modern media, how would you contribute to anything else beyond your area of expertise, etc? The list goes on and on.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
  4. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

    Jul 27, 2009
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    Feb 13, 2019

    I'm not sure I'm the right person for this. It bothers me that Shakespeare is the only author mentioned specifically in the Common Core standards. I agree with the career diploma option in my state, which allows students to substitute business or technical communication courses for the last 2 years of English. They are required to take 4 years of English and math and 2 each of science and social studies. (Biology, another science, civics and US history.) Students must also graduate with an industry certification: licensed welding, customer service, Adobe, Microsoft, CNA, auto repair, etc. They can then choose to go straight to work, of technical or community College. Upper level math and English classes were a huge barrier for graduation to many kids who had no plans to go to college. Jump Start kids have to pass the same standardized tests all students do to graduate. Also this focus on what actually happens after high school trickles over. All health students get CPR and First Aid certified. All civics students get FEMA certified as first responders. All intro to computing get at least one Microsoft certification. These are real industry credentials that can go on a resume. There are different ways to be well-rounded.

    Edit to add: I used to be really into cultural literacy. The longer I stay in education, the less I'm into it. Culture has become more and more fractured, and it is impossible to be aware and knowledgeable about every reference. Also, cultural literacy tends to skew white, male, hetero, upper class. That's not the reality for many of my students. I've learned that code switching is a much more vital skill than iambic pentameter.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
  5. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

    Sep 7, 2010
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    Feb 13, 2019

    I totally agree with your last statement, and I am currently working to bring in more diverse voice to my English classes. However, I still think this is exactly why we need to keep at least a few core texts so that we can at least still have some kind of shared cultural experiences. I think it's important that all of our HS grads have at least some experience of Shakespeare. Also, you never know what kid might take something away from reading a great work of literature. I teach a lot of non-college-bound students, and I work hard to make Shakespeare relatable -- I talk about how everyone went to see his plays, not just the wealthy/educated, and how it was more like being at a rock concert than a stuffy play. We look at the portrayal of women, of mental health issues, even (gasp!) could Ophelia and Hamlet have had (shudder!) sex -- or could she have even been (vapors!) pregnant? Talking about the core themes in ways that are of interest and importance for students can bring the text to life and maybe, just maybe light a spark for a student that wasn't there before.

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