Most Important and Benefitial Subject in Secondary Education?

My buddy and I are both teachers at the same high school. We are both very young at our professions but desired to improve our skills. We have this debate on What is the most important and benefitial subject to high school students.

I teach mathematics and find the benefits from mathematics most important because students learn how to reason and use logic when solving problems. In addition, they learn great mathematics skills.

My friend teaches history and finds this the most important subject. This could be better stated by him but shorthand: this subject teaches incorrective behavior, mistakes from the past, and ways to improve humankind.

This is where you come in. WHAT IS THE MOST BENEFITIAL SUBJECT? If you are a teacher, please state what subject you teach. I will enjoy your feedback. :slight_smile:

Beneficial to whom?

It’s subjective based upon each student’s interest in learning.

No objective standard.

Spelling. Composition. Sentence structure. No matter what you eventually do, even if you become a history or mathematics teacher, you will appear more educated, intelligent and respectable if you learn to write. Oh, yes, and capitalization.

Don’t capitalize words in the middle of a sentence unless they are proper nouns. The word is “beneficial” with a ‘c,’ not a ‘t.’ What, pray tell, is “incorrective behavior?”

If you learn to write well, you will also learn logic and structure. Furthermore, if you discover “ways to improve humankind” you will be able to communicate it clearly.

Yes, I’ve been an English teacher. I’ve also been a programmer, a systems analyst, a manager and an assistant vice president.

The most important thing for high school students is to be exposed to a wide variety of topics. Each teaches a different way of looking at things, and every one of them is valuable. Now, as a (non-professional) mathematician, I would tend to agree with the OP, but let’s face it, literature is important too. No reason to leave a tool out of your mental tool box if you don’t have to.

I really think it is sort of like trying to decide if protein or vitamin C is more important. Or what is the most important color of the rainbow. There is no answer to the question.

History taught well can teach critical thinking and possibly ways to improve mankind, and while I am coming more and more to believe humans are incapable of learning from the mistakes of the past in a way that avoids redoing them, history can teach us ways to better understand our present. Math can teach a system of logic and thinking, as well as a skill set that is very important to survival. Theatre and music classes probably saved my life as a teenager. I suspect for some kids gym provides the same comfort. English classes and writing skills are essential in this society.

What is most valuable? They all are. They are all worth fighting for the time with students in your class. They are all worth the prep time and the teaching time and your love of the subject. They are all worth fighting tooth and nail when school boards or administration or some politician trys to eviscerate your program.

to me, the most important thing i learned was how to be a young adult.

i learned that i had a proficiency in mathematics, and in computer programming, and that i really enjoyed english despite my resistance to it earlier in my academic career (i blame bad teachers).

so i had 2 people that i would consider my best high school teachers. one i would say was the best person i ever had as a teacher, and the other was the best at getting me to learn the subject she taught.

the first was an english teacher. he was just amazing. he was such a jerk sometimes that a bunch of people (who never had him, but he monitored during lunch or study hall or whatever) really didn’t like him. but he was really just being honest and telling people what they needed to hear. i had him for english my sophomore year, which incidentally was the first year i looked forward to going to english class, and he was like a parent to a lot of children there. i remember kids would stay after school and cry to him and tell him all their problems, and walk away a better person. but most of all i remember he was the first teacher i ever felt bad if i might disappoint him.

anyway, the other one was a math teacher. and she made calculus easy (for me, anyway). and she did a great job.

i would say for anyone who finished high school, the most important subject was the one that the best teacher taught.

Just ask yourself this, which would be the hardest to loose? I would say that English, Mathematics, Science, and History would all be even. Maybe band is a less important subject. The most important thing is to be well-rounded, though, so they are all important.

LOSE. Not loose. You lose your keys. You let your dog run loose.

Ramanujan – Your English teacher should also have taught you to capitalize the first person singular “I.”

Based on thirty years as a science teacher, I would have to say that the most benficial skills include reading and writing with skill, and the ability to think logically and constructively.

Nearly all academic courses offer opportunities to teach reading and writing, and there are unlimited ways to teach logic.

In short, I don’t think you can isolate any one academic area and say that it is the most beneficial to the student.

I am a retired English teacher, but I choose not to pick at the grammar and spelling of anyone’s post unless she or he has been snotty.

In looking back at my own experiences in high school, the most practical class for me was typing.

Without a doubt, typing was by FAR the most important thing I learned in highschool. All of the science and math I learned was re-taught to be in university. This history I learned was too long ago so I really can’t remember. But the one thing I learned in highschool, that seperated me from most of the kids in university was typing. I knew girls in first year that were working on hand-written essays!

As to your OP: I was hard core science and engineering. I was planning to go into engineering at university, and I REALLY needed reading and writing skills.

But to settle your bet, the default seems to be a life of liberal arts, which is why I think science needs to be drilled during highschool. People really need to understand DNA, chemistry, and basic physics.

To me, the argument is like arguing which is the best thing to burn in a fire, wood, coal, briquettes etc. The most important thing, is the match.

It is irrelevant which subject students must learn in HS, what is important is that the spark of love of knowledge gets implanted in them. The thirst for more education should be the ultimate goal.

English. Far and away. Mathematics is pretty important, history less so, but English is the absolute, central, #1 subject. (Assuming you’re in an English-speaking country.)

If you can read, you can learn anything.

I would say that Communication Skills (or some such) would be the most important - not just for a career, but for life. Being able to get your message across to another clearly and succinctly is invaluable, no matter what you do with your life…


I enjoy reading all of your responses (except MLS, who reminds me of my dreaded english teacher from my high school education, who has to correct every small detail in literature.) As we both expected (NOTICE: I didn’t use accepted) this is much more a philosophical question then it is a straight answer.

I think we all are in agreement that high school students need communication skills, to be literate, logic and reasoning skills, etc. It is not the subject that is taught, but how well the message and understandment is interpretated (Hope I spelled that one right??). It also helps if the lecturer (or teacher) is entertaining.

Normally, I’d agree, but when the poster is a teacher, he or she ought to know better!

What if you’re an administrator facing budget cuts and you’re given an axe. Where to cut first/last?

(Assume you must cut entire classes from the program, and you cannot simply adjust class sizes, skimp on photocopies, and things of that sort.)

Accounting/personal finance

mathematics meets history. How often have mercenaries fought in wars? Killing for the money. How often have wars been triggered by economics.

If accounting had been mandatory in highschool since 1945 would the economy be in a different state today? Did WWII end the Depression? Banks send credit cards to college freshmen who never had accounting in highschool.

“All warfare is based on deception” - Sun Tzu

Dal Timgar

The most important thing anyone can learn is how to learn. Once they learn how to learn, the rest is just details.


As a current high school student, I think the most important subject is History. The relevance and morals of history cannot be denied. This might be nitpicking, but I feel that my knowledge of practical math, science and English was cemented in Middle School where I had wonderful teachers in all 3 subjects (Mr. Layson, Mrs. Pelosi and Mrs. Clark at HOMS, if you’re out there, thank you!). I’d say that so far the subjects I’ve learned most about in High School are Spanish and History.

If I were cutting, I would cut non-academic classes like Auto Shop, Cooking, and Wearable Art (an actual class at my school) first.