My fellow students: Commit to your classes


Elena Schmidt/The SPOKE

By Matthew Fan, Co-Opinion Editor

Throughout my time at Conestoga, English classes have typically involved small-group discussions about the books we read. Even after four years, I am still shocked whenever I turn to my group-mates to interpret difficult passages and only receive blank stares—because they have not kept up with the assigned reading.

I wonder, though, what is the point of taking the class if you are not completing such a large portion of the curriculum? Perhaps more importantly, students need to read books, whether for a class or not.

The lack of reading among high school students is extremely concerning. According to Dr. Jean M. Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, approximately one-third of twelfth graders did not read a book for pleasure in 2015. This statistic perhaps reflects the current technological era. In fact, Twenge said that the average American twelfth grader spends approximately two hours each on texting, the Internet and social media every day.

A popular alternative to reading books is SparkNotes. Admittedly, the summaries and analysis of themes, motifs and symbols are often sufficient enough for students to receive high grades. However, reading someone else’s interpretation is drastically different from deconstructing the text yourself. 

Even though you may know one form of analysis for a certain passage and are able to write about that for an assessment or assignment, this does not mean you have built upon your analytical skills. Foregoing this opportunity to improve will not only hinder you in further reading, but also in future jobs. After all, analysis can be applied to many different tasks, such as writing code for new software, diagnosing a patient’s disease or investigating evidence for a court case.

Perhaps the future seems too far away for us often near-sighted high school students. However, reading can have an immediate impact on your life. According to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, reading helps teenagers develop better social skills. Moreover, researchers at Emory University report that reading stories enables us to develop empathy. We take on the perspectives of the diverse characters in books, which helps us interact with others in real life.

Students at Conestoga High School are known for their academic prowess and extracurricular activities, but these involvements put them in a time-juggling act. I understand this personally, but I have found that dedicating some of my free time towards reading rather than to social media has helped a lot. Even though I may not read for pleasure as much as I want to, I have been able to keep up with assigned reading much better. Just this small change can make a huge difference. It is ok to use SparkNotes every once in a while if you are truly overwhelmed with work, but if you can make or find the time, grab that book that has been sitting at the bottom of your bag and read. 

Elena Schmidt/The SPOKE

Matthew Fan can be reached at [email protected].