PDA

View Full Version : It's Better to Plant a Cabbage than a Rose


Oryx
November 7th, 2011, 12:29 AM
Liberal Arts or Hard Sciences?

I've heard this debate time and again, living on a college campus.

"Calculus is useless!"

"When will I ever need Philosophy?!"

Liberal Arts majors lament any math classes they have to take as useless and inapplicable in real life. They would rather spend their time studying in Writing or Philosophy classes, honing the skills that they're going to school for. Meanwhile, students majoring in hard sciences such as Chemistry, Engineering, and Physics whine about the requirements to take courses in the liberal arts, and how knowing Plato's theories will not in the least help them when they graduate and go into their technical fields. They would rather immerse themselves in the intricacies that surround their major instead of wasting time on classes that won't help them in any way.

The question I'm posing to you is, which is more useful in the long run in general? I emphasize in general because obviously the answer would be "It depends who you are", but that's not the question. Think of it this way: you have to pick either hard science/math courses, or liberal arts courses to remove from the curriculum for everyone, no one will have to learn about it ever again. Which one would be a better choice to remove?

Think in generalities here, not specific "for X situation, Y would be the best choice".

Bonus question: Should students be required to learn something that won't help them when they graduate, such as math for a Philosophy major or Literature for a Chemistry major?

Sodom
November 7th, 2011, 06:03 AM
I'm more into the liberal arts side of things with philosophy and writing; the things that make life interesting to learn about. I think it would be a very, very bland world if we were unable to be taught these things.

This is why it pains me to say that given this choice, I guess I'd have to cut these classes. Maths and sciences are what keep the world running at its core. Currency, medicine, agriculture, everything that keeps human beings alive stem from the knowledge and application of math and science. Without these things, the world would cease to function.

I really wish roses were edible :(


As for the bonus question, no. I don't think students should be forced to learn anything that will not directly help them in the life they have chosen for themselves. If they should wish to take the extra classes I think it would be very wise; however society is rather goal-oriented and people don't really have the patience for anything they believe is extraneous to what they wish to achieve.

oocyst
November 7th, 2011, 07:04 AM
Like Shining Raichu said, Maths and sciences are what keep the world running. In our modern world these things are crucial for survival. Without them society as we know it will fall apart, but the liberal arts side is also needed in this society. People have the need to express themselves.

As for the bonus question, Yes. I think it's useful for people to learn subjects they don't need to graduate. It's useful for basic knowledge on a subject, but also, like teachers at my school keep repeating, you need to learn specific things just to expand your way of thinking. For example, math learns you to systematically solve problems and literature helps you with reading and understanding different texts.

Esper
November 7th, 2011, 08:45 AM
I had an art teacher in community college once who told us a story about a group of three students who were going into business and economics but who decided they wanted to try some art to get a more rounded experience from college. After they realized that they would need to put in more effort than they had the time for in order to get A's in the class they dropped out. They all had the same reason: they needed to keep perfect GPAs in order to transfer to good schools and get into good programs. My teacher's moral of the story was that people who go into science and business ought to have a chance to have some art in their lives and maybe it wouldn't be such a cut-throat, blood-thirsty world in those fields.

I know that the sciences are rather important and I'd never want to remove them from people's education, but I think the liberal arts are just as important to making us understanding, thinking, creative people and those I wouldn't ever give up either. Science is our strength and muscle, but the arts are our soul and conscience. My own experience in school is that people who go into the sciences are less concerned about the world and more concerned about themselves. Assuming that's generally true for the whole field I'd rather have people 'soul' over 'muscle.'

And it's not as if the art/science divide is totally black and white. If you take a field like linguistics, for instance, it borrows from both sides and you can have people who study how language works in the brain while at the same time people who study the language change.

I do think that everyone should have a rounded basic knowledge of the world that includes the arts and sciences if for no other reason that it's foolish to put all your eggs in one basket. You might decide to change the direction of your life and it would be hard to go into a technical field if you had trouble doing basic multiplication. (At my job I see this often enough and it's kind of sad.)

TRIFORCE89
November 7th, 2011, 09:46 AM
It's not that I don't find the liberal arts interesting or useful.

Just not practical.

How many people make a career out of being a philosopher? If you're going to go that route, prepare yourself with some other skills to fall back on. Follow your dream, but do so responsibly.

bobandbill
November 8th, 2011, 01:22 AM
Meanwhile, students majoring in hard sciences such as Chemistry, Engineering, and Physics whine about the requirements to take courses in the liberal arts, and how knowing Plato's theories will not in the least help them when they graduate and go into their technical fields.I suppose that depends on the uni/country. For my uni (Sydney), I'm doing a degree in science, majoring in Physics. The only thing we needed was so-and-so much of maths in the first first couple of years (or leastways strongly recommended ones), and naturally the physics subjects (which aren't plentiful the first few years). No historical or whatnot subjects and to fill up the number of units we were basically told 'do whatever you like'.
Anyways, for this:
The question I'm posing to you is, which is more useful in the long run in general?Well... that depends - for society as a whole for instance I'd say sciences/etc would have their place, but for each individual person I think what they should do is truely what they enjoy and/or aim to have as a viable job later in life - and if they can combine the two then so much the better. If you don't enjoy your job, they say...

Yoshikko
November 8th, 2011, 05:33 AM
I think writing is as important as maths. Like said before, maths and science are the main things that keep it going here, and I think that even though you won't use it in the future, you NEED to know the basics. But writing, and other things like that, are crucial in this society. You need to be able to present yourself, to express yourself, you really need to be able to put your words on paper, and for multiple things, applying for jobs, for example.

Mr Cat Dog
November 8th, 2011, 06:23 AM
I'm a great believer in teaching multiple types of discipline up to a certain age, but if I had to only choose arts or sciences, I'd have to go with science. It's not just that sciencey subjects are more practical and 'useful', but that one can't just pick them up and run with it. Take maths, for example: you can't just learn something like calculus without being 'taught' it to a certain extent. At first it's a very new and unintuitive way of solving problems... but the more you get to grips with it, the easier it becomes. Contrast that with, say, literature. Provided one is able to read, that's all you really need to a certain extent to get to grips with a book. Yes, the study of literature involves looking at historical precedent and social issues and authorial intentions, but I've always found that more interesting when researching those independently of school.

I don't value science OVER arts in any way (and I think both should be taught compulsorily up to a certain age, less for the subjective content and more for how they get one's brain to work), but if forced to choose, science wins out.

Bela
November 8th, 2011, 07:00 AM
I really wish roses were edible :(

In some cases, they are! I hear they're also playable ;P

Also, comparing earth science and biology to the philosophy/ethics classes I've had, I'd say I have liked different things about both.

There are times when I like to learn about the world around me and that's wonderful for science classes. At other times I like to know more about what people have thought, differing arguments, picking these apart, etc.

Which would I prefer? The science courses of course!

Esper
November 8th, 2011, 09:49 AM
I'm a great believer in teaching multiple types of discipline up to a certain age, but if I had to only choose arts or sciences, I'd have to go with science. It's not just that sciencey subjects are more practical and 'useful', but that one can't just pick them up and run with it. Take maths, for example: you can't just learn something like calculus without being 'taught' it to a certain extent. At first it's a very new and unintuitive way of solving problems... but the more you get to grips with it, the easier it becomes. Contrast that with, say, literature. Provided one is able to read, that's all you really need to a certain extent to get to grips with a book. Yes, the study of literature involves looking at historical precedent and social issues and authorial intentions, but I've always found that more interesting when researching those independently of school.
Sorry, Mr Dog, I don't mean to single you out specifically, but you used a very succinct argument which I want to refute."Is it certain that there corresponds to the word communication a unique, univocal concept, a concept that can be rigorously grasped and transmitted: a communicable concept?"
That's the first line from an essay called Signature, Event Context by Jacques Derrida. Was it entirely clear what it asked? We can read the words. We know what they mean (except, perhaps 'univocal'). Is that enough?

You did say "to a certain extent" so I know you don't think it's as simple as "I can read, that's good enough" but even so. Reading is not a simple skill you learn once and then master. It's a process, and there are different levels of reading ability. Being a good reader means being able to read efficiently - reading relatively quickly, having a good sized vocabulary so you understand what topics you're reading on a basic level - but having critical thinking skills is something that the more advanced reader has. That kind of reader can take a text and summarize its main points (or message, or theme, or argument etc.) and be able to comment on it, analyze it, suggest ways in which it could be improved, point out fallacies or contradictions, and so on.

Reading is communication, and by reading and learning how to be a better reader you learn to think better and communicate better. I could say "This is a rose. It is red. It gives off a fragrance." It does not impart any more information than saying "This red rose gives off a fragrance" but one way of wording things is certainly more efficient and more pleasant to read.

Basically, the study of literature, of the arts in general, can be a study in thinking differently. I hate to use a cliche like that, but there it is. That's the kind of thing that the sciences need: inspiration. Yes, they have it, but thanks in great part because of philosophers and artists, or at least people who thought like philosophers and artists. You might say that inquiry and experimentation are integral to the sciences, but you might just as easily say that logic and structure are integral to the arts.

tl;dr I feel that without the arts science would stagnate because you need imagination

Mr Cat Dog
November 8th, 2011, 01:10 PM
I completely understand what you're saying, Scarf. I even agree with it, for the most part. The point I was trying to make was that the 'imagination' that is lacking in science but very prevalent in the arts doesn't have to be learned in a schooling system. From my experience - and this will undoubtedly not be the same for everyone - the academic study of literature, history, and other arts subjects have restricted my imagination in trying to convey a certain point of view across... but that's just from personal experience.

If anything, I've always found that imagination comes not from academia but simply from living life (to continue the vague platitudes and cliches). Discussion about historical events, books, philosophy etc. can happen organically and don't necessarily need a structured framework in order to thrive. The critical thinking skills mentioned can flow from academic study (and should be actively promoted in the study of the arts... especially from something like history, from personal experience), but they can be learned independently. Studying to think differently seems, to me, to be a contradiction in terms... but that's another debate for another time! Science, however, although about discovery and experimentation as you so rightly put it, needs the framework behind it in order to function. One can't just 'discover' how to do long division or the different proteins that make up DNA or what a quark is.

Again, as I mentioned at the end of my previous point, I'm not advocating lack of arts education. (I studied an 'arts' subject exclusively at university... although it's probably a little bit of both.) I just believe that the 'imagination' and critical thinking skills that the arts encourages can be learned and subsequently applied outside of the education system.

(Oh, and I'mma expecting you to call me Mr Dog from now on, Scarfy! 'Cat' is now my official first name here at PC!)

lx_theo
November 9th, 2011, 01:44 PM
People should learn how to use the knowledge of one to augment the other. While not needed, they can do so much for each other. Look at Steve Jobs and what he did to that extent.

shenanigans
November 9th, 2011, 03:24 PM
Ohhh this is horrible because I'm so torn between both, after looking into both academics and arts to study in higher education! But at least that's probably unbiased me a bit.

Anyway, on the topic of the thread, as much as I wish that I could say the arts are more relevant to life today I just can't. I think they can be really interesting and enjoyable to the right people but that's about it. Society is so built around technology today that the fields of study which lead to their advancement are extremely valuable, more so than liberal arts. As Mr Cat Dog said earlier, that doesn't go to say that the arts should be ignored, as they can still be studied. But they can be picked up outside of education as part of a lifestyle rather than part of work. Essentially, they don't have to be learned for the most part (although there's no saying why they couldn't be!) while the skills required to advance society aren't something most people are likely to simply pick up. These skills are what really require education.

However,
People should learn how to use the knowledge of one to augment the other. While not needed, they can do so much for each other. Look at Steve Jobs and what he did to that extent.
is also a good point but only after foundations have been learned for the hard sciences. Sure they can be applied together brilliantly but that doesn't change the fact that it is more effective to be taught a hard science than a liberal art.

Oh a bonus question yay!! To be honest, if you're studying a subject at a higher level, then I believe you should receive the most vigorous and focussed education possible. While it can be nice to study a non-relevant subject on the side I don't think it should ever be compulsory. It's a distraction, and often a very irritating one, for the student who isn't interested while it's a joy for the student who is. Leave the extras optional for the students who want to do them, imo.

marz
November 9th, 2011, 06:07 PM
Tricky question. Almost like a paradox in itself. Math and Science keep the world running; but what do we have to live for without art? Art keeps us entertained; but what good is entertainment considering you can't progress as a society?

The thing is here, you're cutting it completely out of the curriculum. Not even at a primary school level will we learn the basic fundamentals of math and science. We would be left to our own devices to learn that 1+1=2. We'd probably be able to figure that out, counting with our fingers would come just as naturally to us as if we were taking elementary math. But without a rudimentary forced teaching of this basic, common human knowledge, can we really get anywhere in life? Assuming you teach your kid, from birth, how to do artistic things such as drawing, painting, playing music, writing poetry, anything at all that is widely accepted as an artform, will they get any true value out of it? Music, for example, has a great deal of math involved. There is a point where science and art does clash, and where the two actually depend on each other.

Although I'm an arts student myself, studying film production, to completely cut out all science and mathematics out of the curriculum for every human being is a giant leap backwards in human intellectual progression. So if I had to choose one, I would say sciences. What a bummer it'd be to live in a world like that, though. Emotion would serve no purpose but to ourselves, would never be conveyed through anything. Messages would never be told, nor received. Sounds like a grim world to me.

To answer the bonus question, I'm guessing you're referring to a post-secondary education level here, to which I'll answer that a student should never be forced to take any class he or she does not want to. That's the beauty of post-secondary education. You choose your field and are given classes to help you work well within that field. As an arts student, I would never be told to take a mathematics course, nor would I ever choose to take one. I got sick of math right around grade 11, I really don't want to do any more.