Are we honestly still doing this?
One of my biggest pet peeves is science students who constantly shit on arts students, claiming that our degrees are so easy compared to theirs. I mean, I was so tempted to comment on this post, giving them some real stats, considering science students are typically place so much importance in hard numbers:
“Sixty pages per class, per week. Two thousand words per class, per semester. You can’t Wolfram Alpha your way through a 2000 word paper.”
I didn’t though. I didn’t want to give this person the attention they crave. But this is my blog so here is where I’ll spew all of my thoughts from the bus ride home, after I saw this post.
I see it in an analogy of tools. As a former math/science type, I feel somewhat able to address this, though not 100%; I haven’t done calculus in two years. Anyway, tools. From my experience in the sciences, it’s kind of like the professor says: “Here are some tools. The whole class gets the same set, to be fair. Some of you may have already used them, though they may be very new to some others of you. Here is a basic understanding of how they work. You have x amount of time to use them to complete your task.”
On the other hand, in arts it’s more like: “You will all need a set of tools to complete your task. I cannot give more than a vague idea of what they look like because your set of tools may come out looking very different than the ones that belong to the person next to you. You, yourself, must decide which direction to go searching for the tools, and figure out how all of these tools fit together.”
A degree in liberal arts can be one of the most writing and reading intensive programs you ever experience. While we don’t have “labs” per se, we have tutorials/discussion groups. And not only are you expected to complete those 60 pages/week for tutorials, but you are expected to come to class with opinions, ideas, and thoughtful questions pertaining to the topic. While this is one of the most mentally taxing aspects of a degree in liberal arts, this is one of my favourite aspects as well.
As a bit of a sidebar, some of the most deeply invested and socially/politically aware students I have ever met have belonged to the Faculty of Arts. One of the most pervasive stereotypes of arts students is the vague aspirations that we have: “I want to make a difference in the world,” for example, as opposed to “I want to be a doctor/bio-technician/engineer.” While we are so often made fun of for this very reason, I think, if asked, I will continue to use this line. Why? Because the one common tool that liberal arts students must have is the ability to think critically about the world around us. Because it is the number one reason why I believe a liberal arts degree is just as (if not more) challenging than a science degree. Because it is the reason that I switched from sciences into arts.
Believe me when I say I could have done either. Believe me when I say that I took AP Calculus simultaneously with Pre-Calculus 12. Believe me when I say that I received full AP credit for MATH 100, as well as a 97% in Pre-Calc 12.
The public school system sets us all up for science degrees. “Okay, I am finished this problem, flip to the back of the book, the book agrees with me, okay let’s move on. Don’t question it.” Unless you had some kind of extraordinary teacher, we are hardly ever taught to think critically about the world as we know it. 2 + 2 = 4. Why? Because it is. Why do we sit in rows? Because that’s the way it has always been. Why is our elementary/middle/high school experience of the liberal arts focused mainly on learning dates and memorizing minutia? Because that’s the way it has always been. The most dangerous phrase known to humankind.
A liberal arts degree teaches us to think critically about and challenge the world that we see before us. Of course the public school system would set us up for science degrees. Or else we would see all of the problems that persist in government today. Or else we would see how supposedly democratic governments, such as Canada’s, are slowly and quietly eating away at all of the things we hold dear. That Universal Healthcare that Canadians are famous for? disappearing beneath our very noses. How many people know? Not enough.
Why pursue an arts degree if you are completely capable of a science degree? Most students care so deeply about their disciplines and the world around us that they are willing to (often) take a pay cut and deal with the ridicule to follow their dreams.
Sometimes we write entire essays because of ten seconds of reading that spark an interest. These people that surround me in my classes are some of the most inspiring and passionate individuals that I have ever met. And while I’m sure these people exist in the sciences as well, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
tl;dr - go back and read the post i s2g
[edit: find everything to this post here]