Literature should be a required course. It offers students a broader base of education than if they were simply allowed to take only the courses that were of interest to them. In addition, while students might see no value or connection between the literature course and what they want for their future, they really have no way of knowing who they will be in the future. Don't close doors now because you don't see how they fit the bigger picture.
Literature is an important course and should be required. Reading and writing abilities are not the only things gained from a good literature course. Students also learn to problem solve, extrapolate meanings, and other necessary skills. Literature is part of a well rounded education. How can you understand your history class without also studying the literature of the time period in question? It is possible for a history class to cover literature as well, but unlikely they would have time to cover so much material in one course. I think Literature should be required until a student has a strong foundation in the subject.
I find that older students work better when a they have elected to do a subject rather than it being compulsory. English has become an option at our high school and I find that I have more motivated students (not, all, it's still the real world) and I also think that the teachers have looked to make courses more attractive and relevant to students now they are not a 'captive audience'.
If it enhances one's writing skills then yes, I think it should be a required course. But there are other ways of developing writing skills without linking it to literature.
That being said, teaching writing in a literature course is still the best way to teach it. There is a close link between reading in writing. Seeing how others write improves one's own writing skills in terms of structure, diction, grammar, and so on.
Furthermore, it's worthwhile to improve one's ability to read and interpret texts. It enahnces one's thinking skills to be able to analyze text, be able to articulate its meaning, and come up with a thesis about what a text says.
Finally, just because one can read doesn't mean one can read everything equally well. Some writing is better than others, and some texts are more challenging than others. I hated "The Canterbury Tales", for example, but agonizing my way through it was worthwhile in the long run.
Hmm - I hate using the "you'll be better off for it" argument. Too nebulous. So let's try it this way: I really enjoy reading and literature. And I get more out of reading, and out of a variety of kinds of reading, because I have at times tackled different texts of varying difficulty. It also helps to read statements in the news, and see what peoples' assumptions are and where a person (such as a politician) is fudging.
I don't think that literature is needed in order to enhance writing skills. You can take classes that are about writing without being about literature. Personally, I think that it should be an elective because I do not think that the skills gained by reading literature are vital to success in life or to being a good member of society.
Literature expanses your learning, helps you in writing, understand things, it helps you to think, helps you to learn different phrases
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It should be a required course so that we can improve and enhance our writing skills.