Photo by Casey Gomez

English classes at Tech get a bad rap.

Students often consider them a free class and do not put in the effort. However, like most classes in college, the real lessons are subtler and not written out in the curriculum. Calculus, for example, does not just teach difficult math, but rather how to structure thinking to solve a problem.

Tedious classes teach patience and challenging classes teach work ethic. English classes, ideally, teach communication.

As Tech is an engineering school, it is understandable that faculty and students prioritize STEM classes over communication-related ones.

However, one stumbling block technological innovation often encounters is reluctance from the general population, sometimes because they do not fully grasp what that technology is.

This is not entirely the general population’s fault — many times, it is due to a break in communication, even a failure to explain. The engineers and scientists working on these projects become so entrenched in them that without the proper communication skills, they are unable to explain them to a broader audience or have trouble working with people not used to a STEM-centered mindset.

Communication skills, especially written communication skills, benefit every student and working adult. The ability to convey a point clearly is one of those personal skills that can separate the great engineers and scientists from the merely good ones. At the same time, being able to analyze content in the way that English classes analyze literature teaches critical thinking and trains technical minds to uncover deeper meanings and
detect patterns.

English classes are usually only taught the first year or two at Tech, as they are core classes, and unfortunately Tech’s packed curriculum in every major leaves little room for further writing and communication classes unless those are major-related. This is a further shame because forcing students to work outside the skills they are most comfortable with — in Tech’s case, STEM skills — gives them a more well-rounded education and the ability to approach problems from multiple perspectives.

The inspiration to solve STEM problems does not always come from a STEM-centered class. Communication (and, by extension, liberal arts classes) broaden a person’s perspective and therefore their potential to find solutions.

It takes a different thought process to uncover themes in literature than it does to solve an engineering problem. Although engineers and scientists do not need to be able to tell the difference in literature movements or types of poetry, the communication skills an English class teaches gives them the ability to connect with others and better share their ideas.

  • Richard L. Thornton

    Absolutely! I graduated in Architecture in 1972. A couple of years in the working world and I was convinced that I needed more education and a broader education, so I went after a Masters in City Planning. Graduate School requires a lot of written reports, but that was nothing compared to the working world of Architect-Planners, where I was expected to supervised the production of 200-300 page documents. I could not have succeeded without the excellent English professors I had at Tech.

    Many moons later and I stumbled upon the ruins of an Itza Maya Terrace Complex near Brasstown Bald Mountain in North Georgia. The archaeologists in Georgia immediately attacked me on all sides because they knew nothing about the Itza Mayas and little about the Creek Indians. I am Creek. We all carry some Maya DNA.

    I wrote a book which so far has gotten in lead roles on five nationally or internationally broadcast TV programs. As for the archaeologists from UGA? They hiding now with a cluster Creek Rambling Wreck arrows in their behinds. It all began with a Professor Blicksilver at Georgia Tech, who taught me how to write and communicate. Google Richard Thornton – Native American architect, if you don’t believe me.