100 Words On: The Most Valuable Subject Taught In Grade School

If you’re looking to earn the biggest annualized net return on your college investment, studies consistently show that your best bet is via a science- or math-based technical degree. With that in mind, one would assume science or math is the most valuable subject taught in grade school. Not true; it’s English. Especially when you consider that our customers, bosses, and colleagues often gauge our competence and evaluate our work based upon how well we write.

The bottom line: Practice writing because, although not impossible, it’s tough to be highly successful in the business world when you can’t communicate effectively.

Photo Credit: Dan McKay

Comments

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      That they do, Chappy. I know some people in my profession who are terrible at explaining things verbally, but if you ask them to come back with a white paper or other report explaining the situation, they can clearly make their case with ease.

  1. 3

    says

    As a former high school English teacher, THANK YOU for pointing this out. I liked to tell my students that English teachers secretly ruled the world, because communication skills are such an important part of getting anything accomplished. Without the ability to write or speak clearly and effectively, your great ideas will never get off the ground. (This assertion was usually met with 30 pairs of eyes collectively rolling at me.)

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      You’re very welcome, Emily. By the way, I think those who read a lot tend to be better writers. I’ll show my age here … I think one of the best ways for kids to learn how to write well is by having them read a newspaper (or articles from a newspaper website). I think reading newspapers is also a good way to help expand one’s vocabulary.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      I notice it in my job too, John. I know some incredibly smart and talented folks who, sadly, can’t put together a coherent sentence.

  2. 7

    says

    That’s very true.
    I would add that if you are going into a science or math-based field you should also take a technical writing class.

    As a software developer, I write more documentation than I would care to. That’s something they don’t teach you in programming classes :)

  3. 9

    says

    I agree with English grammar and being able to make a point.
    I got a C in penmanship (the only one in my first 12 years) in the third grade and it went downhill from there.

  4. 12

    says

    i agree with Em. there is a relationship between Enhlish comprehension and math tho. a person that does not have a good comprehension of English will not be able to comprehend the concepts of math either.

    • 13

      Len Penzo says

      You think so? I’m not so sure about that, Griper. One thing I am sure about, I know people with a great handle on math who couldn’t give me an example of an adverb to save their life — or even identify the subject and predicate of this sentence. Just sayin’.

    • 16

      says

      Given that math is understood by people from all different languages, and is often considered a bridge language (and is the language we expect to use to make contact with any completely foreign species we should ever possibly encounter..), I’d strongly disagree that one needs english grammar to understand math.
      I agree with your correlation, but I think the cause is one step back.
      I would suggest that the skills one needs to understand grammar are the same skills one needs to understand math (which has a syntax and ‘grammar’ all its own). Learning a grammar could certainly be of use in learning math (and the reverse), but a person with the skills could learn math just fine without having learned the grammar of english or another language.

  5. 19

    says

    I agree communication skills are very important and even more important as we communicate through email, online etc. Soft skills are equally important and generally learned through extra curricular activities such as sports.

  6. 20

    says

    Hard to leverage that math, bio, or engineering degree if you have a hard time communicating to your supervisor how valuable you are. Many times students in the STEM fields focus so deeply on their studies that they might underestimate the value of good communication and writing. It gets rewarded as well because they might land a job right off the bat reinforcing the view “why do I need to focus on writing or all those ancient writers?”

  7. 21

    says

    I would agree with you – if english classes actually taught the skills needed for life outside of english academia.
    I hear that once upon a time schools taught things like grammar.
    I think we got the odd lesson on homophones, and some spelling tests in the really early grades, but by and large, my education’s worth of language arts (gr 1-9) and english (10-12) taught poetry, creative writing, making up deep meanings out of short stories, making up deep meanings out of novels, more poetry, play reading, and shakespeare.
    I use none of that in my daily life. The closest I can think that would ever relate is working on persuasive essays in Social Studies class, which is closer to job-related writing than an English essay ever was.

    I think schools really should be teaching the importance of spelling, grammar, paragraph formation, reading comprehension, and such skills that are necessary and valuable no matter what you do – but I don’t believe many schools are teaching that these days.
    I am lucky enough to be pretty good with spelling and grammar without trying (though I’m only a mediocre typist), so I generally find it easy to put together a technical report or something. but I credit that entirely to natural aptitude and voracious reading, rather than anything ever taught in school.

  8. 22

    AniVee says

    One of the ways parents can help their children to know what good sentence structure and grammar are is to READ TO THEM from any of the good books for children (The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, whatever). The child also uses his imagination instead of simply staring at a screen.
    I was horrified to see that at the school where I teach the not-yet-reading children were taken to the Library periodically for visits but once there, they were plunked down in front of a TV and “The Little Mermaid” and “Finding Nemo” were played for them (both lovely films with good moral content, I suppose, but, Hey! no WRITTEN words were seen!).
    If this marks me as an obsolete Fuddy-Duddy, so be it.
    p.s. I’m with The Griper in the Engish vs. “english” debate.

  9. 24

    says

    Math and science courses are good – no doubt about it but good verbal and written communication will carry any day in your professional life. If you don’t have enough communication skills, no matter how big a technical guy you are, you will rot in your cubicle.

    The so-called geeks must get out of their cubicles and mingle with others to develop a good repertoire among colleagues and managers.

    • 26

      Len Penzo says

      Will never forget her. I loved Mrs. Rue!

      She was one of the best! I especially remember how much she loved teaching us all about Les Miserables.

  10. 27

    SassyMamaw says

    My Mom told me to become a good reader. If I did that, she said, I could read about how to do nearly everything else!

  11. 28

    says

    I 100% agree with you. I hated writing essays and research papers in school, but have recently come to realize how important those papers were to my education. It’s shocking how terrible the writing is of some of my educated colleagues. I read nurse progress notes mistaking for heroine for heroin, with incorrect subject verb agreement, not to mention all of the spelling errors. I find this very concerning because the inability to accurately express things in medicine can literally be life or death.

  12. 29

    says

    I agree! Before you can demonstrate technical abilities such as math and science, you are judged on your communication skills. This includes written and oral skills.

  13. 30

    Rosanna says

    Thanks for this. I am reminded every day how important it is to be able to communicate effectively – to get your point across, to persuade, to impact.

  14. 31

    says

    My father just retired last summer after working 48 years as an electrical engineer. He said many times that the single criteria differentiating the good engineers from the so-so ones was the ability to clearly WRITE THE MANUAL for the products they designed. If a customer can’t understand the instructions, they won’t want to buy the product, no matter how well-designed.

  15. 33

    SassyMamaw says

    The best piece of advice my Mother ever gave me was to pay attention in English class. She said that if you were a good reader, you could always read up on how to do anything else!

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