Volume 97 Issue 8 Campus Spin

JC Flashback: Arts vs. Sciences

by Hannah Prestage

Some criticize others who take degrees in arts or English compared to the “superior” subjects of math and science, like back in 1936. Now, language is classified as a superior subject too. Being bilingual is a quality not a lot of people have and can often be the difference between you and another candidate for your perfect job. Yet, in regards to the arts, I’ve even heard some people say, “Why waste your money paying such high university fees on a wasted degree when you will never get a job?”

These wasted degrees are not wasted at all! We all have varying strengths and interests that some people don’t realize. Yes, being a doctor is a profession where you feel like you are giving back to the community, but what if, like me, you cannot stand the sight of blood? Every profession can be seen as giving back to the community in one way or another; it isn’t as simple as saving someone’s life. Essentially, there wouldn’t be much point in doing something you don’t enjoy. It would have a detrimental effect on everyone around you and your environment.

As a graphic design student from the UK, I never take this idea of a “wasted” degree personally. I know my degree is vital in the world. Where would we be without designers creating the advertisements that encourage you to buy the products you do? Who would have taught you how to write your name if your teacher hadn’t taken an English class? History would be repeating itself and the world would be in despair if we didn’t have history majors to help us understand our previous mistakes.

Some people don’t consider the arts to be academic, but why? Here at Juniata, a lot of the arts classes are taught in classrooms, and there are also lab sessions. For example, working in the dark room for film photography is a scientific process, using different chemicals and repeating experiments to find the perfect exposure time. Perhaps our misunderstanding of the Arts is due to the fact when you say you “do art,” people expect you to be drawing all day and visiting museums to look at naked women who were painted in the 1600s by creepy old men.

The Flashback article refers to how classes are being taught in schools, which equates to what students might choose to study; it says that science is much more fun and exciting than the ‘dry bones’ of learning other subjects. Simply, schoolteachers choose to use experiments to engage the students instead of bombarding them with complicated formulae, even if there are some kids who cannot be trusted with a Bunsen burner. If this is the case, why don’t more students find arts fun when they can express themselves through any media? Art opens up the chance to use language, theatre, photography, drawing and more without any limits.

It is an issue that the popular mindset nowadays is that expression of oneself should be kept to the individual. Otherwise you would be seen as boasting or inappropriate to others, which could decrease the interest of students. We are always told to be ourselves, yet we are shot down for stepping too far out of the boundaries or if someone disagrees with your statement. We should be in a world of acceptance and understanding.

Art can be very personal compared to working for our society through math and science to improve our futures through cures and new, advanced knowledge. However, the arts can be very therapeutic and help our society in a different way, a way that medicine cannot. Music, photography and writing has often led to helping patients with diseases such as Alzheimer’s or memory loss after accidents to regain their memories and become themselves again.

Ultimately there are pros and cons to all degrees. Science often costs more time and money with a necessity to stay in education longer in order to gain further qualifications. Language students must take a year abroad in order to become fluent. Although there are some negatives, on balance everyone ends up in the position they want to be in, with the degree they wanted, looking for the employment that motivates them to get up in the morning.

As a liberal arts college, I believe we are more open to other subjects, as all students must take certain courses to fit the requirements. This includes subjects outside of your POE. The liberal arts system encourages us to understand that we may find other subjects harder or easier, but they are not less important. A bonus of the American system offers the freedom to have an undeclared or individualized degree, which gives you the chance to explore and choose various subjects you like. There is no need to choose one subject over the other. However, some young people do not choose to go to college and instead go straight into the working industry. Are they any different from us? Their first job is an alternative starting position where they are still going to work hard and aim to achieve their set goals to work up to the top, working towards their dream jobs. Others cannot afford the fees for school, and we do not look down on them; they do their best to conform to society and find a job in order to afford to live. We must not make rash statements lightly; everyone is succeeding in one-way or another, striving towards their own goals, and we must respect that.

Wednesday 29th January 1936

Volume XII, No. 16

The Arts and The Sciences

When the Juniatian in its write-up on the Freshman class last fall reported that a large majority of the group were Science majors, there was surprise and comment. Did it just happen, as sometimes does, that this particular class was interested in one field? Or rather was I not merely a steadily increasing tendency which has been noticeable to a less marked degree for several years: more and more students studying college course enrollments it is easily discernable that this tendency is not confined alone to Juniata, but is, in general, true for all the colleges and universities.

Why? As we ponder this significant trend the reason for it is not so obvious. Many people will give many answers.

Some will hold that the great interest in the Science curriculum is a natural concomitant of our realistic, materialistic age, when the arts and abstract studies have to gibe way to the tangible, “practical” sciences. When values come to mean merely material utility as at present, then the youth study those things most esteemed by the age.

Others will say that the present dominance of Science in the schools is a mere fad, a craze of our mad twentieth century, something evanescent, which, disappearing in a few years will give back to the “higher values” their deserved pre-eminence.

Still others believe that students choose Science because it is offering a better future, greater financial and vocational possibilities to young people, who, quick to read the signs of the times and supremely anxious for success, enter the laboratories instead of the literature, history, or philosophy class. Parents seeking for the well being of their offspring urge the Science curriculum because of material possibilities in the future.

Again, Europeans observing this educational shifting are likely to remark that the Americans have always been interested in material values, have always liked to deal with those things which are visible, tangible, and materially profitable.  Hence the present trend is inevitable because it is a characteristic of the American type of mind, an American philosophy.

But do any of these explanations sound plausible? In a general sense they are all undeniable, all perhaps have something to do with the educational phenomenon we are considering. But none are basic, in the sense that they give the reason why college students are choosing Science in ever-greater numbers.

The real reason is to be found by comparing the methods of teaching in Arts and Science not only in college, but in High School, because, after all, students make their choices of study not by any careful analysis, but purely on the basis of liking of courses previously taken.  How much does teaching technique in the Arts courses aim to appeal? How many teachers still teach history as a dry procession of unsavory facts! How many English teachers still dawdle with “the dry bones of learning”, and teach a Shakespearian play from the standpoint of “incentive moment,” ‘point of highest interest,” ‘declining action,” and all the antedated machinery of medievalism! How many Philosophy teachers still teach words only! How many Latin teachers still fight the wars of Caesar!

Contrast this with Science laboratories where students work for themselves at their own rate of speed on experiments involving modern problems, where they are made responsible for finding things out for themselves, or in the lecture classes are given compressed, pertinent, related information for use in further experiments. The work is hard, but involves initiative with the satisfaction of real achievement.  Which is more likely to appeal to high school or college youth as the more vital, the more interesting, the more worth-while for a life vocation?

It is high time the advocates of the Arts curriculum were reading the handwriting on the wall. It is time for them to cast aside outdated paraphernalia, to teach literature for literary appreciation, to teach history as the living, exciting story of man, to emphasize and aim toward the real culture that the Arts curriculum alone can give.


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