There is a problem going on with English as a subject in high schools that we are seeing in the dips in English literacy courses in Arizona. Instead of seeing students flock to these classes because they are of interest, more students are choosing to take the bare minimum when it comes to English because the class is not seen as being as fun as some of the others. The Arizona Literacy and Learning Center has been making an effort to combat this with a few programs, but we need to first look at the causes of this decrease in interest if we are going to actually combat this problem.
The first thing that we noticed is that despite having the best English teachers in Arizona, students were still turned off by the idea of taking the subject. As someone who hated English all through high school, I can definitely relate. Math is simple because the answers are objective. There is no other answer for adding two and two together than four because that is just what it is. In English, there is no limit to the number of correct answers, but you can still get the wrong answer too. It is very confusing. I would often feel like the teacher is in his or her own world when reading the same texts because they were coming to insane conclusions about the author’s intentions with very little insight into the author’s life or context in which the books were written. When someone tried to tell me about symbolism, it was them that needed literacy programs in Arizona, not me.
It wasn’t until I started taking English lesson classes in Arizona outside of the K-12 system that I finally started to see the joy in reading and writing. When I was finally given more freedom to write about subject that interest me or write creatively with no strict prompts, it opened me up to English to the point that I made it one of my minors. I felt that the reason was the freedom. I was often writing about books that did not interest me or subjects assigned to me that were not my style. The first assignment that spoke to me was a comparative essay on a book turned into a movie, but that was in my senior year and I was too far gone.
English is personal and that could be the reason we are losing it. By trying to fit everyone to the same curriculum, we are losing out on the unique voices that just want to write something different. Hopefully, we can find ways to make English more fun again.