A Young Writer’s Thoughts About English Class

by Lucy Zhang, Age 15, USA

 

English class stopped being useful in fifth grade when we learned the basics of spelling, reading, and grammar. After that, teachers stick books and reading guide questions together and assume those things will teach us how to write.

From literary analyses to research papers, essays are the bane of most students who are trying to be writers. Quotes must be thoroughly dissected until they lose all emotional meaning and become purely scientific evidence. Words are pulled from the quote and attached to meanings that supposedly portray the author’s message.

In my sophomore English class, I had to write a literary analysis about the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Just like in math, there was a formula: write a topic sentence, pull a quote from the text, analyze specific parts of that one quote, and conclude. I needed a dense quote with literary devices–from metaphors to symbols. This analysis served only to dissect quotes until they lost all meaning. The physical explanation of the quote was on paper, but it was no longer there emotionally.

I owe none of my writing skills to English class but to the gradual maturation of my mind and time spent writing outside of school. What is going wrong in the classroom? The simple answer is that English class is both boring and impractical. You have to wonder, will I be analyzing literature in the future? Will it be directly pertinent to my career, income, future? Probably not.

From my experience, English class does not nurture a student’s writing abilities. We need to be able to make our own trials and errors with the written word.

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Lucy Zhang is a 15 year old writer from the US. Lucy says, “I first began writing poetry, and later started short stories and nonfiction articles. I am a submissions editor for my school’s Literary Magazine and also a writer for a student-run newspaper column. I would like to eventually write and publish a novel, once my attention span can handle it.”

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5 comments on “A Young Writer’s Thoughts About English Class

  1. Hailey

    I was once told by an actual author that English class has nothing to do with writing stories. There is definitely some truth to it. I think the only reason I’m getting an A in English is because I was already a writer before I went to high school for grade 10. My writing improves my English grade, my English grade only helps me understand my writing better – I can now NAME all the literary devices that I could already use just fine.
    The one reason I do like English is that it gets me to try things I would normally avoid. Often for good reason, but it’s almost nice sometimes. I’d never written a non-fiction essay before, for example. On the other hand, would I have been tempted to write an essay on my own at some point, without being told? Yes, probably. (I swear my creativity has a mind of its own.)
    But the main thing I hate about English – and school in general – is when I’m given a massive project or assignment, and I cannot possibly finish it on time while still working on my writing. What do I have to drop? My writing.
    I got back at my English teacher for that one, though. I had to do a novel study where I named the ‘best aspect of -‘ or ‘worst aspect of human nature’ shown in six of the chapters, and then give a real-life example. So for one chapter, I chose ‘sacrifice’ and gave a really logical, sarcastic example using homework vs. personal hobby. With a 92% for the project, I doubt she noticed. Still, writing it was almost fun.

  2. Rosemary

    I agree with this article so much. I love reading and writing but my English class just sucks all the passion and joy out of the written word.

  3. Wow. I suppose I’ve been incredibly lucky, then. I owe a lot to the English program at my school – whether it’s informative or fiction writing. When we analyzed books, it was never “dissection” but finding a connection and a deeper meaning.

  4. Sebastian

    I think English class has its uses for people who don’t have much experience in writing or storytelling , but I firmly believe that writing – creative writing – isn’t something that can be taught through a textbook. It’s gained through a process of trial and error conducted over years, usually in the solitary confines of your room, typing away at midnight. That said, I wouldn’t be where I am skill-wise today if not for English class.

  5. Rhiannon

    I completely agree. My favourite book is now just a book because I had to pull it apart, sentence by sentence. I think the only thing I learned in English was how to put symbols in my writing.

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