Why English Matters
Now that you’re in Cegep, or at least thinking about it, you might be asking yourself why you are required to take courses that don’t seem to be related to the program you have chosen. You may have decided, for instance, that you want to study Science, and after college, go on to study Nuclear Physics at university. Maybe you’re considering a three-year program, such as Animal Heath, instead. Does it seem odd that you have to take courses in Humanities, Physical Education, French and English?
These are called General Education courses, and they are required for every student, regardless of program. They’re called General Education not because what you learn is “general,” but because what you learn is important to your education no matter which path you’re on.
Let’s look at English as an example. In the four English courses you will take for your DCS, you will develop your skills in reading, writing, communicating, and critical thinking. Why are these areas important for you?
No matter what field you choose to devote your professional self to, reading is likely to prove an invaluable skill. Just think about how often you read – even if you don’t regularly read for pleasure or entertainment, you’re reading all the time. Traffic signs, instructions, recipes, technical manuals, web sites…reading is something we do so often we often forget we’re doing it. That is, we forget until we try to read something and can’t! In your college courses, you’ll learn to read more effectively and actively, so you can get and remember more information from the things you read.
Like reading, writing is one of those skills that many of us take for granted. As a student, you probably write more than many people do in the workplace – but that doesn’t mean that the ability to express yourself effectively in writing won’t matter once you’re out of school. Writing well might be the key to getting the job you want, and will certainly be appreciated by your employers. People who write well are often valued by their companies, and you may find that it’s the employees who write well who get chosen for the best positions.
Writing is one aspect of communication, but in your English classes, you will also develop your speaking skills through presentations, in-class discussions, and group work. Strong communication skills are an asset to you no matter what you choose to do later in life. Brilliant, revolutionary ideas don’t get very far if the person who conceived them can’t explain them to anyone else! Just imagine a day in the life of your future self – picture your workplace, and your colleagues, and consider how many times a day, in how many different ways, you will need to communicate: telephone calls, e-mails, web searches, face-to-face conversations, reports, requests, updates, and so on. Chances are, whatever your future holds, communication will be a big part of every day.
Many students think that their college English courses will be about appreciating poetry, which doesn’t have much to do with their life as a scientist, nurse, computer programmer, or psychologist. We do hope that you learn to appreciate poetry and other forms of literature, of course! More importantly, we hope that the skills you learn in our English classes become the basis for a more critical, analytical approach to other aspects of your life. In other words, we use poetry and many other forms of literature to teach you to read between the lines, not just of a poem, but of anything. Critical thinkers consider things carefully, look for all the possible meanings, and make decisions based on their interpretations. The work you do in your English classes will help you develop those skills, so that when you leave us, you are even better prepared to face the future.
– Clifton Fadiman