English Class vs Language Arts in Education
Most schools do not put enough emphasis on the fine arts, namely, as an example–the art of language. In an English class the teacher will focus on reading skills, reading comprehension, grammar and vocabulary–but language arts is recognizing written word as an art form.
Yes we do want our students to study and master the English language. But the fine arts should be reserved as different kind of lesson, preferably in a creative writing class that is separate from English class. But every English class, if there is no specific language arts class required, should at least include a unit that focuses on the beauty and importance of literary accomplishments throughout the ages. Poetry, plays, song lyrics, screenplays, novels, from authors like Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, Ken Kesey, Harper Lee etc.
Language is composed of words–words carry specific meaning and sometimes carry double meaning. So the primary tool of language is words, another is sound. Words are, in combination with an almost musical goal, can show the transformation of words and basic communication into art.
Words are to the writer what paint is to the painter, they are what the instrument is to the musician, and they are what tone and pitch are to a singer. That is why children must understand that English is not just what they learn in English class–but the language itself is spawned the language arts years and years ago.
The empty page means to the writer what the score of music means to the musician or singer. The empty page is the blank canvas, the untouched page in a sketchbook and so on, the empty page is–the thing that the any artist of the written word must make to come alive.
As I mentioned before, there is a musical aspect and technique to literary language that is hard to grasp without providing prime examples of it. The musical technique involved in the art of language is well exemplified by the works of William Shakespeare, but he is just one of many. The poem, when read silently or aloud. Should have a certain song about it. Whether it in written in iambic pentameter, as a sestina or in the more modern style of free form, the music should be there. For example in a poem by Dylan Thomas, the first stanza reads:
” Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night…”
The poem was written as Dylan Thomas watched his father lay dying, and there is a beautiful song here. Note the repetition. Note the syntax in which the words are used which is different than regular speech–there are articles like “the” or “a” that the author will drop–removed for the sake of rhythm. This particular poem is easy to find at the library or on the Internet, and I highly recommend it as a tool for any Language Arts instructor.
There is technique and beauty, form, use of syllables, pitch, pacing and sound even in prose. So demonstrate to your students the versatility of words.
If there is one thing I loved best about high school–it was what I learned in my Advanced English class, which was exclusive to the analysis of the literary arts