What is the point, English

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What is the Point?

Let's say you're a high school student. You've decided that you want to be an engineer, maybe a computer programmer. Or you want to be a painter, or a professional tennis player. Now, let's say you're in English class, and your teacher has just assigned you to read Beowulf. I'll bet that some part of you is thinking...

Why?

What could possibly be the point of reading this ancient so-called epic? In fact, what is the point of this whole class? It won't improve my programming skills; it won't help me hit a backhand slice. It's completely irrelevant to my life.

If you have the kind of teacher who's open to such questions, you may even ask it aloud.

And if your teacher's not really expecting such a question right at this moment, he or she may resort to one of these answers (I know I've used a few of them):

  • Reading literature helps you become a better critical thinker.
  • It expands your horizons.
  • It's beautiful.
  • It will improve your ability to express yourself.
  • It can make you a better person. (Yes, I've said that.)
  • Because I said so. (That, too.)

 

Probably the answer didn't satisfy either you or your teacher. It's hard for someone who loves literature--or anything, for that matter--to define their reasons for loving it. And if your teacher loves literature, he or she will want you to love it, and maybe feels a little sad that you aren't quite sold on it.

But if you ask a few more questions, you might start to find the answers a little more useful.

In the upcoming lessons, we'll look at each point in a bit more detail.


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