Category Archives: 1940

The Place of English in General Education (1940)

LaBrant, L. (1940, May). The place of English in general education. The English Journal, 29(5), 356-365.

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/805387

LaBrant argues for the foundational and central place of the teaching of English in general education: “Language is a most important factor in general education because it is a vital, intimate way of behaving” (p. 364). Throughout, she calls for a child-centered, honest, and healthy approach to language.

Quoting LaBrant:

Again, language is a device for giving and receiving emotional responses—a function we in school often forget or limit to love for trees and flowers or to occasional bursts of patriotism. (p. 357)

But I am saying, for I believe it intensely, that present-day living and understanding of it comes first, and that usually we have taken a wasteful course by beginning with the past and its lessons. (p. 361)

Mental hygiene calls for a wholesome use of language. Schools do much to set up the opposite attitude. By the very nature of the school, its experiences become a standard of sort. Language used in school is characterized as “good” in contrast to language which cannot be used in school. By our taboo on sex words, on literature which deals frankly with life-experiences, and on discussion of love and romance, we set up inhibitions and false values. Only by discussing frankly and unemotionally vital matters can we develop individuals who use language adequately and without embarrassment….Our people use [language] timidly, haltingly. They fear to speak directly, call frankness vulgarity, fear to discuss love, beauty, the poetry of life. They ban honest words and prefer circumlocutions. The language teacher, the teacher of English, carries a goodly share of responsibility for the mental hygiene of young people. (p. 362)

As training for independent thinking and clear self-expression, how appropriate is it to ask children to punctuate bad sentences some textbook-maker has written, or to write endless papers on topics chosen by a teacher or committee? (pp. 363-364)

Language is a most important factor in general education because it is a vital, intimate way of behaving. It is not a textbook, a set of rules, or a list of books. (p. 364)