Why Language Arts?

Our son is naturally talented in math and science, with consistent As in both, with practically no help from us. Many parents could only dream about this situation.

Yet, we are trying hard to work with him on one thing – his language skills. In my previous post I shared some of the issues our son is going through, from misspelling, scattered ideas, wrong use of words and grammar, absent reading, to lack of ability to extract information from a reading material.

Some people are telling us, “What’s the big deal? Universities care mostly about math and science grades! If math and science grades are high, it means your children are smart!”

And we agree that our son is smart, and that it is a blessing for us to have a son who score aces in math and science. But his life is so much more than just good grades and ability to secure a seat in a good university.

So this is why we encourage him to try his absolute best to improve his language arts:

Firstly, math and science emphasize right or wrong answer. You either get it right, or not. While they are the bases of logical thinking, they do not put a lot of emphasis on analytical thinking – where any reasons can be accepted as long as it is justified with compelling argument and evidence.

Secondly, math and science skills, at school, are used mainly for … math and science; but language skills are required in all subjects. No teacher would give a full mark for a sloppy handwritten work with scattered ideas and a lot of misspelling.

A lot of school tests, regardless of subjects, are based on the ability to recall information from reading materials. Without ability to intently read and extract important information, he is bound to lose a lot of points.

The necessity of language skills goes beyond the classrooms, well into his future adult life. As the job-market and life today would show, language skills need to go hand-in-hand with math-and-science-like logic.

To begin with, math excellence don’t show on a curriculum vitae. But if your CV is full of spelling mistakes, no employer would give you an interview.

If my son can’t count accurately, later on in life he can use a calculator to do the math. But if he can’t structure his thoughts properly in a piece of writing, nobody would understand what he’s saying and all his brilliant thoughts would go unnoticed.

If you are a super talented architect (a.k.a. someone who should be naturally talented in math, especially geometry …) who is about to build the tallest building in the world … but you fail to put a compelling proposal just because your idea is not structured and your presentation skills appalling, that building project won’t be yours. I am a living testimony to this … many times I have won new clients and projects not because my ideas are superior or cheaper than competitors. My ideas were, simply, more well-written and presented.

If you are a super talented engineer participating in a government bid to create a system that will speed up baggage checking process at airports by 50% … but you fail to meet all requirements simply because you missed taking notes of some important parts in the bidding document … your proposal will be disqualified. I have also lost projects because I missed some super simple instructions.

Some times, based on my experience and my husband’s, analytical thinking – expressed through good language skills, is the key from bringing someone up from a technical person to the top post in the organization. The higher someone gets in their career, the less their work is about technicalities and the more it is about inspiring, strategizing, and communicating ideas convincingly. Math and science don’t teach this – language arts do.

For this reason, many people I know who want to advance beyond technical positions choose to do an MBA or some general management courses – so they move on from doing the right-or-wrong process (the sciences and maths) to mastering critical thinking, strategizing and communication skills (the language arts).

And for all these reasons, I am encouraging parents and students to balance maths and sciences will the practical skills of language arts – the skills of absorbing important information from what you hear and read, the ability to combine those information you receive with your own ideas, and the art of putting your thought together in a way that makes it easy for people to understand and relate to you.

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