Why does writing matter? Isn't that what spell check and grammar check are for?
There's no question that technology is providing ever-increasing levels of sophistication and nuance for editing the work of humans. With predictive text and highly-evolved speech-to-text innovations, most of the work is done, right? But what's missing is the uniquely human ability to create. Technology saves us all the elementary work of memorizing verb tenses and the lists of commonly misspelled words, but it doesn't help us communicate and collaborate. For that, we need to be strong and powerful creators. Like most other things in life, writing is a skill that can be learned. A great writer is a great communicator, and a great communicator will always stand out from the crowd.
Why study English?
It's true that in order to succeed as today's global citizen, one needs marketable skills. If one intends to prosper, those skills almost certainly include technology. But the skills that are often overlooked are also the skills desperately needed in today's career environment: creativity, cooperation, critical thinking. And yes, those skills can be learned, they are not innate. The study of English helps build those skills because students consider matters of deep complexity from many angles. There is not one, right answer.
What are the biggest challenges facing education today?
Complacency towards and lack of opportunity for people who do not learn in the traditional way. We're over 17% into the 21st century, and yet for the most part teaching remains firmly grounded in the 20th century, sometimes even in the 1950s. We've not made a dent in the achievement gap, and our schools remain segregated. Today's students need truly individualized instruction, so that every genius can find their way.