The Case for Liberal Arts, by a ‘STEM’ student


Matt Saccaro’s post The Case For Removing (Almost) All Liberal Arts From College on

Though Catalog has raised a fair few eyebrows already, and although I’m not the most timely responder, seeing as it fits quite nicely into Fourth Society’s remit (namely that this is just the kind of faux economic idiocy that damages the interaction between science and the arts). Anyway, I thought I’d have a go:

Dear Matt Saccaro,

1. The purpose of a university course is to study something you enjoy, because enjoyment is the only path towards excellence and a full understanding in a subject. Speaking as someone who is midway through a biomed degree, I can tell you that no one who doesn’t want to be here prospers.

2. In the U.K. we have less wiggle room to choose content in our degrees (especially in STEM subjects) which may lead to more people enrolling on a course that they have realistic expectations of, but this is definitely not true of everyone, I suspect this is why freshmen in the US might drop out of pre-med in the 1st semester. Enough people drop out over here. Another reason might be that the education systems of both of our countries are woefully inadequate and outdated, which is especially disappointing to STEM undergrads, let me tell you. We get what we can, but the academic experience at university is on the whole designed for a cohort of students that have been dead for over a hundred years.

3. Furthermore, the liberal arts also require more in depth understanding than can be easily attained by the average individual not doing as arts degree (as I have found), this is because of the simple fact that a collection of like minded individuals who want to talk amount a subject and benefit from the teaching of a concentration of passionate minds, does not occur in everyday life, because most people don’t have the time of inclination. The enriched mind is the atom smasher of the liberal arts, both require a university. In the end, we will probably need a job our whole life but university gives us a chance to just learn. Which is pretty amazing when you think about it, like a lotus garden in the middle of an abattoir

4. It is ridiculous to value half of human civilization in these terms. The employment problems graduates face are shared by STEM students as well, and in any case are caused by problems much larger than the perceived vanities of the poor college freshman. But if you want to talk economics, it’s their money so let them spend it!

5. Finally, without the study of the liberal arts my life would be that much more meaningless, because ultimately if you pursue the sciences to the edge of human understanding they leave you with the same fundamental questions that the arts do, and its the arts that let you live with these. I understand that to get some serious views for your post it can’t hurt to go for a shock title, but the sciences and the arts have so much more to learn from each other- so please don’t make this conversation more difficult with this meaningless babble.

What do you think?

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