Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Educational Change/Essentials

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Why are all subjects are essential to be taught?

All throughout the course of a child’s education, many things change. They go to different schools as they get older, have different friends, and acquire new teachers. Their interests change from playing with friends after school to sports ,and members of the opposite sex. The one thing that remains constant is the subject matter that is being taught in schools. Regardless of what school a student goes to, the same basic subjects will be taught and all of them are important as they contribute to the development of a student’s mind. While some subjects may be more valuable to students than others, they all shape the way a person thinks. Often times, students may ask, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?” What they don’t see is that they use it every single day whether they realize it or not.

Reading, Writing, and Speaking[edit]

Reading, writing, and speaking are essential for everyone to function on an every day basis. While reading is an activity that almost all children learn to do at a very young age, comprehension is a totally different story. Just teaching a student to read is not enough. They must be able to understand what they are reading. There are a few good skills that must be practiced while learning to comprehend what is being read (Colorado). Comparing and contrasting is a great way to get a student thinking about more than just what the story says at the surface level. Also, getting a student to try and figure out the theme to stories and solve the problems that may exist in the story is a great way to make them use their mind for deeper thinking (Colorado). Research now shows that low reading achievement more than any other factor, is the root cause for lower performing schools. Reading is considered to be the fundamental skill upon which all formal education depends on. Any child that does not acquire the necessary skills to read, will be at a disadvantage academically in all fields, however because of recent scientific research and the newly discovered learning disabled program in the Special Education department, new instruction has been developed to help these children read at level once the instruction is delivered by the proper skilled/ trained teacher (AFT Union of Professionals,2007).

The ability to write is an essential tool that students must be possess if they are going to be successful in school and in life. There are several areas in which writing is used in every day life. In the most basic way, people use this skill when doing something as simple as writing down a note ([1]). Writing will be used in almost every profession imaginable in one way or another. Whether it is writing a letter to someone or just writing down simple calculations, basic writing skill will be used in the workplace ([2]). According to the Belden Russonello & Stewart research and communications survey, Americans voted that writing skills are essential to get ahead today. Nearly three-quarters of Americans say that it is more important today than it was twenty years ago to possess such a skill (Belden and Russonello,2007)There is a high demand for higher education when trying to obtain employment in today's society as well. Along with higher education comes the responsibility of knowing how to communicate ideas verbally, as well as on paper. Writing enhances the development of many other activities as well. Writing helps build vocabulary, and also helps develop important reading skills.

Speaking is another skill that is kind of lost in the shuffle after elementary school. Public speaking is way too important for this to happen. It is completely irrelevant the knowledge a person may have about a particular subject if they can not verbalize their point. Public speaking is used in almost every profession. Someone can be a great writer but may not be able to present the materials in front of other people. One way for children to develop profound readeing and speaking skills is the use of phonics. "Phonics is a method of teaching reading based on pronounciation" (Leinwand 89). Helping the pronounce the words in order to read them also helps them to be able to say the different words correctly. It also gives them more confidence knowing they all they have to do is take the time to pronounce each syllable. It is harder for employers to find people who can not speak properly credible if it appears that they are unsure or do not have any knowledge as to what they are talking about.

Mathematics[edit]

Most individuals in today’s society do not realize how much mathematics is involved in their daily lives. A skill as simple as counting is using a math. Every time an individual counts, they are using the basic function of addition. From such a basic skill as counting to designing a computer, math is essential in life (Roman). Engineering is one field that uses math more than others.

Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.

—Albert Einstein

Engineering has crossed our paths in one form or another. Engineers designed the cars that are driven to work every day. Engineers designed the highways and bridges that are used for our daily commuting purposes. Without the usage of math, these necessities that we take for granted would not be possible. Almost nothing that we have in the world today could exist without the usage of math (Roman). Students do not care for mathematics because they view math as difficult. That is why it is important for teachers to provide remediation for students who do not understand and make it their point to emphasize the importance of math, not to just teach it.

Science[edit]

Where did we come from? Why is the sky blue? Why are there clouds in the sky? All of these are questions that most people will ask themselves throughout the course of their lives. That is why science is another important subject in schools today. Without science, these basic questions of life could not have been answered. Science gives people an understanding of the world and why earth functions the way it does. Without science, there would be no way to calculate time. Along with every other subject already discussed, science is used in one way or another in most professions. Without science, how would doctors be able to treat people who are ill? Engineers use science along with math to design the tools that we use on an every day basis. Math and science compliment each other in discovering some of the mysteries of the world.

Literature[edit]

Literature is a subject that many students feel is unnecessary in school. They could not be more inaccurate. Literature greatly benefits people. First, it expands the imagination. Great literature can take the reader back in time or to some magical world. Next, literature provides the reader an interpretation of the world from someone else's point of view ([3]). Everyone perceives the world in a slightly different way. Literature is a way in which to use the mind to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. Most people just view it as a source of entertainment and of no educational value. When your mind is forced to think in a different way than what it is accustomed to doing, it sharpens the brain and increases the imagination ([4]).

History[edit]

Most people view history class as being forced to learn a bunch of facts that have no meaning to there life. History is so much more than just learning dates and facts. It is what is done with that information that is important. Instead of just learning that something happened, it needs to be taken into consideration why something happened. It is then that history becomes useful in the world today (Ragland 3). History is useful in today's classrooms because in many cases we have seen that history often repeats itself (Leinwand 77). Even essentialist thinkers believe in a mastery of basic knowledge, a main component being history (79). As we look through all angles, history is a large part of education in all aspects and is one that should not be left out of education. When students know about what has happened in the past, they can use that information to help make decisions. Students can then truly understand history and use it in their lives.

The Arts[edit]

The arts are not studied as much in school as the rest of the subjects but it is still very important. Art provides a way through which to communicate to people who may not even speak the same language as the author (Dickinson)! Art can be used to tell a story or just make a statement that everyone can understand regardless of what language someone speaks. Art also makes people think more deeply into it than a lot of other subjects do. When looking at art, it could take a very long time to get what the author is trying to say. This makes the viewer think critically about it (Dickinson). Some schools have taken time and money away from the arts to be able to focus more time on the core subjects. A study published in 2003 by Graham Wilkins et al surveyed over five hundred elementary schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia and showed that taking time away from the arts may be counterproductive. Schools that spent more time in the core subjects and less time in the arts did not have significantly higher tests scores than the other schools (Wilkins). The researchers also found that spending more time in the arts may be related to higher test scores but more studies would need to be done to support that idea (Wilkins). The arts are equally as important in the overall development of students by making them well rounded individuals. Students are typically more active in an art, music, or physical education class, and that activity and break from the typical lecture style class may help increase students' attention and decrease unwanted behavior from some students.

Conclusion[edit]

Some of these subjects are going to be more valuable to some than others, but all of them are essential in developing one’s mind. The goal in education is to produce as well rounded of people as possible. Different students will succeed in different areas, but they need to have a general understanding of all the subjects. They are the future of the world and having the privilege of teaching them must not be taken lightly!

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Which subject gives people a view of the world through someone else's eyes?
A. History
B. Literature
C. Science
D. The arts

B. Literature

What is the most important part of reading?
A. Knowing the general plot of the story.
B. Being able to remember characteristics of the main characters.
C. Understanding the deeper meaning of the story.
D. All of the above.

C. Understanding the deeper meaning of the story.

Why is it important to learn history?
A. To learn why events happened the way that they did.
B. To learn all of the important dates and people.
C. To have an appreciation of what our background is.
D. All of the above.

A. To learn why events happened the way that they did.

Which of the following subjects is most used in the average person’s daily life?
A. Literature
B. History
C. Art
D. Math

D. Math

What is one of the most important things about art?
A. It makes us think on a higher level.
B. It can be communicated to all people despite language barriers.
C. It can give greater detail than even words can in some cases.
D. All of the above.

D. All of the above.

Spending more time in the arts may:
A. Decrease test scores, but more evidence is needed.
B. Increase test scores, but more evidence is needed.
C. Have absolutely no effect on test scores.
D. Increase the amount of photographers in our country.

B. Increase test scores, but more evidence is needed.

The arts have a negative effect on the overall development of today's youth. True or false?
A. True, but only because it takes time away from the core subjects.
B. True, because studying music, art, and physical education are not important in today's world.
C. False, because the arts help create well rounded individuals.
D. False, but no one cares about today's youth so it doesn't matter.

C. False, because the arts help create well rounded individuals.

What is the most important subject to teach in school?
A. Math
B. Science
C. A and B
D. All subjects are important to teach and one subject can not be singled out for every student.

D. All subjects are important to teach and one subject can not be singled out for every student.

What percentage of Americans stated that it is more important today to possess a solid foundation in writing than twenty years ago?
A. Seventy-five percent
B. Twenty-five percent
C. Ten percent
D. Fifteen percent

A. Seventy-five percent

How does a child's lack of reading capabilities affect the child's future?
A. The parents lose trust in the teacher.
B. The community losses trust in the principal.
C. The child will not acquire other skills.
D. The child will be a little behind.

C. The child will not acquire other skills.

Which two skills does writing help you develop?
A. Math and art
B. Vocabulary and reading
C. Science and social studies
D. Reading and literature

B. Vocabulary and reading

What subject repeats it self from the past to the present?
A. History
B. Science
C. Religion
D. Mathematics

A. History

What is a method to teach reading that teaches the students to pronounce syllables?
A. BMS mastery
B. Phonics
C. Symbolism
D. Syllabication

B. Phonics

What is used in almost every profession?
A. Mathematical equations
B. The scientific method
C. Public speaking
D. Historical facts

C. Public speaking

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

Should the subjects that are viewed as less important be focused on in school as much as the major subjects?

Every subject is extremely important in the development of a students mind. But when it comes down to it, some are more essential to be learned than others. It is important for a student to be shown art and how important it is, but it is not going to be used on as big of a scale as math is. Math is something that every student must learn regardless of what career they choose. Also reading comprehension and good speaking skills are essential to everyone. While the lesser subjects still must be taught, these major ones have to be focused on a little bit more. A student can go on to be a very productive citizen without understanding art, but if they do not understand math or have good reading skills, it will be much harder to be productive. This is not to say that the lesser subjects should not be taught because they should. When it comes down to it, some things are just more valuable to have than others.


I believe that every subject we teach in school is important. As a student and an individual going into the education field I believe that the subjects that are considered less important are actually very important and should be taught in school. I was not a person who liked art or music when I was in school. I cannot draw and I did not care to listen to the music that the teachers played for us. Even though I had these thoughts I believe that these subjects should be taught in school. Art is important because it helps us build an imagination and express how we feel. On the other hand music should be taught in school because it helps us learn how it all originated and music is apart of our every day world. We all listen to some kind of music on the radio. Physical Education is an important part of the world of education, but I do not feel like it is stressed enough. Our world is full of obese individuals and it should not be. If we were to teach the proper information to our students about eating and dieting we would not have such an obese country.

I believe that some subjects are more important than others. The four basic subjects math, English, science and history are all key components to life. We use math in the everyday world whether it is counting or using a checkbook and most all professions use it. English is used to read, write and communicate and without these skills you could not make it because they are required. In science we learn where we came from, how things occur and what causes them. In history we learn about past events and what caused them to happen. I believe that these four subjects are the most important subjects in the world of education, but every subject should be taught and pushed to learn. —Ashley Stern


The subjects that are less important should focused on just as much as the subjects that are viewed as most important. Some students excel in the less important subjects more than they do in the more important ones. Focusing on these subjects as well will help give these students a boost of confidence which is very important, because it will help them to feel as if they are just as smart or just as capable. Also the less important subjects should be focused on, because they give the students the skills they need to succeed in the other more important subjects as well as the skills they need to make in their future career choices. Although these skills should be focused on, I think it is important that hey do not test students on this material. Of course, in-class tests are important but standardized tests should not be given. I think that testing students on these subjects would discourage them from wanting to take these classes. I think that it would also discourage students from doing well in these classes. This is because I don’t think that students will be as interested in the material if they know that they have to be tested on the material. The less important subjects are just as important as the more important ones and I don’t think that the information in these classes should be pushed just as much as the information in the other classes. —Carmen Brown


The purpose of school isn’t just to learn and become productive citizens. School should expose students to many different subjects so that they have a chance to explore new things, develop interests, and become a well-rounded individual. Music, art, physical/health education, and vocational education should not be given the same amount of focus, but should be given more time than already allotted in most schools. The secondary subjects give students a chance to apply some of the concepts they learn in the core subjects to more than just experiments in science class or written tests. If taught in such a manner, the secondary subjects can be a chance for students to see in action what they are learning in their “pointless” math, science, and history class. Music is opportunity for students to use math while counting rhythms, applying science concepts to pitches and tones, and they may also be able to hear some of the popular music during a time period they are learning about in history class. In art class students use different materials to make things and science shows us why some materials are better than others, it also tells us why the coffee mug we just made cracked in the kiln. Physical education uses science and math a lot (I don’t know how else to say it). Newton’s Laws, calculating heart rate, keeping score, movement in general requires the laws and theories of math and science. Vocational education, especially at the high school level, uses math and science in everything from calculating the amount of materials needed to build something to determining why an engine isn’t functioning properly. These secondary subjects should be given more time (in relationship to how much time they are given now) because it not only gives students an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned, they also can help develop interests in subjects that can lead to career choices or hobbies they wouldn’t normally develop. —Jon Durham

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