Why English is More Important Than STEM

I often ask people involved in education, which high school subject they think is the most important: Math, Science, English or History. Many of them answer Math and I can see where that comes from. From an economic success perspective, a focus on improving education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) makes a lot of sense.

From my perspective, I think English is the most important subject. A bit of background. I have a Bachelors in Mathematics, a Masters in Computer Science and have been creating software for over 30 years. I did well in the NYC school system, but never really appreciated or learned English in depth. I attribute that to my English teachers’ strong focus on literature, something which never caught my fancy. My disinterest in English led me to avoiding all courses that required papers. In all my years in college and grad school, I never wrote a single paper.

What led me to value English more than STEM was working on a conceptual framework for a series of Brevedy videos. That work has led my partner, David and me to the conclusion that English is much more than the correct application of the best Strunk and White rules. Rather, it is the lifeblood of the most important of human activities: communication.
Communication consists of three processes:
– A person thinks of a thought worth sharing
– The thought is expressed in writing (or speech)
– A person reads (or listens) to what was written to discover the original thought

Reframed this way, with the inclusion of the thought process, the value of English in communication becomes clear. Many people will need STEM to make a good living, but we will all need good communication skills to make a good life.