THE VENT: English curriculum should incorporate more essay alternatives


Diane Huang

Alternatives such as the ones listed in the photo above offer unique ways for students to analyze and demonstrate their understanding of the text.

Analytical papers, or the standard five paragraph impersonal extravaganza of intro, body, and conclusion, make up the majority of writing done in a school’s curriculum. For the most part, this assignment does a good job of facilitating understanding…and it deserves recognition for that. Unfortunately, analytical papers can overly dominate the curriculum, removing other potential learning opportunities, which weakens the potential ceiling for a given English class. Thus, it’s necessary to implement different methods of writing into every class for the purpose of greater learning.

Analytical papers accomplish a lot, but writing isn’t a linear method and simply learning to understand it doesn’t teach it. Furthermore, it’s difficult to actually attempt to understand a text if the reader doesn’t have a base of knowledge about the writing. It may be possible, sure, but it’s easier to understand a novel’s writing if the reader can actually write that way. The multi-genre project we did sophomore year did more for my writing than any analytical paper, for one example, and the book reviews I’m writing in my current senior year class allow for not only a greater understanding but also a deeper one.

The only logical solution is moving away from purely analytical papers to multiple genres.”

— columnist Spencer Allen

That’s why it is so necessary to bring in multiple methods of writing. Choosing to focus the students writing on projects invites a different perspective on the reading and more effectively broadens the range and abilities of a student to write.  If the goal of English classes is to further understanding of literature and broaden the writing talents of students, the only logical solution is moving away from purely analytical papers to multiple genres.

My primarily SPA reader base might be raising their eyebrows right now and asking the simple question, don’t we already do this?

Yes, yes we do, and consider yourself blessed for that.

SPA happens to do an exceptional job of expanding the curriculum, but I’d argue that even more ought to be done.

Students are generally granted more freedom the further they go into their high school career, which is admittedly pretty logical. However, that also leaves unfortunate gaps in the introduction classes we take freshman and sophomore year, where those other genres are less represented. The writing base that analytical papers establish are important, but more can be learned with greater representation of other writing genres.

And isn’t our purpose here to learn as much as possible?