Our Opinion: Mastering English

July 20, 2001

Having better educated people in the community is always a plus.

So on the surface, the plan to create a master's degree program in English at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus seems like a fine one.

But dig deeper and it becomes a great one.

Yes, some of our brightest folks are going to get even smarter and more literate through such a program, and they will pass on that knowledge and love for literature to others in the community, particularly young people.

That is wonderful. But of even more importance is the fact there is a pressing need for English teachers here in the Valley, particularly at Imperial Valley College. This program can help address that shortage.


IVC English classes regularly are packed to the gills, meaning students do not get the attention they need and deserve. Many such students are not native English speakers, and to succeed in higher education, and in this country in general, they need good English skills.

Those of us who grew up speaking the language may not realize English is a tough language to master, particularly for those trying to learn it in their teens and beyond. Many students at IVC start in the bilingual program and struggle mightily for years to make it through that program and into regular English classes, where more language hurdles await.

More qualified English teachers might mean more English classes at IVC, which we hope would someday soon mean smaller classes. Individual teacher attention is a must for improvement in English-language skills, but it is hard to give such attention in classes of more than 30 students.

Lack of English skills hold back many in our community from getting the kinds of jobs and lifestyles they desire. It is hard to get into professional positions if you don't speak, read and write the language well. In fact, improving the language skills in our community may be one of the keys to improving our poverty-plagued local economy.

What may seem like a minor academic program could have grand overall effects.

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