In my experience high school English classes don’t actually teach you about the English language. They teach essay writing. How to format an essay, but only one way of formating. My school taught MLA format. Then in college my program required APA format. High school did not prepare me for formatting college essays, but my college essays were also much more relaxed, with format and grammar never being worth more than 5 or 10 marks – a very small amount.
The next paragraph will be mentioning rape.
My grade 11 class had to read The Kite Runner. It is a great book that should be continued to be read. However the class I was in failed to have a very important discussion that should have been sparked by this book. In The Kite Runner there is a scene where an 11-year-old boy rapes another 11-year-old boy (I might be slightly off about their ages). This scene should have led to a class discussion about rape and rape culture. In my class it wasn’t really talked about, there was an unspoken understanding that what happened was wrong, but that’s it. Some of the students even found humour in it, they thought Hassan having blood on his pants from being raped was funny, something that could be joked about. These students were the boys, not all of them, but some of them. I don’t think I need to point out how problematic that was.
In grade 12 we read Heart of Darkness. To this day the only thing I’ve gotten out of that book is that they were on a boat and there are cannibals.
The selection of books students read needs improvement. Have more young adult books. Books that focus on teens, with characters that go through things that the students are probably experiencing themselves. Maybe books like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Thirteen Reasons Why, or Speak, coupled with good discussions.
Now I’ve never understood why Shakespeare is studied in English class, and it’s always taken so seriously. Shakespeare largely wrote about teenagers doing stupid things, over-reacting, and making a lot of inappropriate jokes. They’re plays, they’re meant to be seen not read. I think Shakespeare would be much better suited to drama class. Where students can have fun with the plays, put different twist on them, pick them apart, and most importantly, actually act them out.
Every time I look back on high school I realize how much better the education system could be. Should be.