I am currently working as a teaching assistant for an online course given by the University of Calgary called Professional Technical Communication (yes, I do that, along with writing and blogging and social media-ing. It’s the toe I’m keeping in academic waters for now).
If anything is going to convince me that English studies still has value, it’s through the teaching of writing. If I am allowed to have a modest opinion given my experience in academia, I would say that English departments could gain a lot of credibility by emphasizing the writing and analytical skills they develop.
Studying literature has intrinsic value, of course; it’s important to understand our culture and the major form of art that is literature. However, except for the few courageous ones who want to go all the way through the PhD, studying literature might not be as practical as departments want to believe.
Where I see value, however, is when I get an email like the one I got from one of my students today. Essentially, the student wasn’t happy with their grade, but thanked me for my constructive criticism and said they would apply my suggestions for the final report.
During this first batch of grading, I was often depressed at the thought that some of these students seemed to have put less time in writing the assignment than I did grading it. But this comment really raised my spirits. If my work helps students write better reports and have more success in their future careers, then I will have done something right.
To the small successes in life!