Eye of the Editors: English vs. STEM

While many Diamond Bar High School students enter  college having finished both Calculus AB and Calculus BC, many of those same students are entering higher education having never read an assigned novel, choosing to watch movies or skim SparkNotes for the last four years.

Despite the intensity with which students approach advanced science and math classes on campus, English and other humanities are often regarded as mere afterthought, with DBHS graduates lacking the necessary critical writing and reading skills to compete with the top students in college.

Ranked as one of the top 50 schools in California by U.S. News and World Report, the school’s fervor in higher level math and science is impressive. Many students choose accelerated courses, taking the college-level course MACH 5 their sophomore year and finishing Calculus BC by junior year. Students pack their schedules with AP sciences, with some overachievers even taking more than one college-level science in a school year.

When it comes to English, that enthusiasm isn’t exactly mirrored in the way students approach reading classic literature and writing analytical essays. While this might be chalked up to DBHS having more STEM-minded students than humanities students, this gap in engagement should be addressed.

Students, seemingly, don’t realize that in college they will be expected to  analyze and discuss developed ideas after reading hundreds of pages of assigned reading.

In most English classes on campus, that same expectation is entirely unrealistic. In many regular and honors English classes, too much of class time is spent watching movie adaptations and doing meaningless worksheets. Skimming over general themes of a novel and spending a week watching a movie seems like a waste of class time, lacking the rigor that students expect from the lectures and quizzes in math and science classes.

While more AP teachers on campus have started incorporating modern connections and developed discussion into their classrooms, the English program as a whole still isn’t approached as seriously as STEM.  

At all levels, English teachers need to encourage similar discussion and analysis that might take place in a university classroom, actively looking for new ways of discussion and testing that might draw students away from simply reading the Cliff Notes version of the assigned novel.

At the same time, Diamond Bar students need to take their English classes more seriously to succeed in critical thinking and analysis in college.

Students seem to procrastinate most often on English homework, ignoring simple writing assignments in lieu of studying for a math test a week away. Reading chapters of an assigned novel is often seen as optional, and discussions in class often lack serious thought, with students unwilling to engage with teacher offered questions or analysis.

Despite the STEM focused culture and the common majors that end up on college applications,  Diamond Bar students need to understand the importance of humanities, striving to work just as hard writing essays for AP Literature  as they would studying for tests in AP Biology.