The State of STEM & Humanities

By Aliza Asad, Joyce Chen, Jessica Pratt, Sumeet Singh

Sumeet Singh: There is a misconception about how Humanities is somehow easier than the STEM fields.  In an English class, there is no way to quantitatively judge what you are doing, which translates to thinking that the workload is easier.

Jessica Pratt: So why do you think there is that misconception?

SS: Well, it depends on a person’s mindset. I, for one, was a physics major in the first two year of college and really liked doing my physics homework, but I also liked reading a lot. And at a certain point, I discovered that I liked reading more than I liked solving equations, which is not to say that reading was somehow easier.

Joyce Chen: So since you’ve have changed from Physics to English, what do you think about the workload? Do you think the English workload is easier?

SS: I find it easier because I enjoy it more and I actually connect with the text as I read it.

JC: I am a Nursing major and the reason why a lot of my peers would say that Humanities majors are easier is because you can’t quantify how well you’re doing. If you write an essay the night before, and your teacher would be like, oh this is great, you get an A. But you can study for a week for a bio exam and still fail. The grade in a biology class is quantitative unlike the grade in an English class.

Aliza Asad: On the flip of side of that, you can spend days working on an essay and the professor can say that that’s not what he was looking for.

SS: Just because you can’t quantitatively subscribe a value to it doesn’t make an English class easier. I think in Humanities there’s an inclination to narrate, to tell a story. There is a sense that there’re people on the other end and not just numbers and abstractions.

AA: Humanities prepares you for the actual human to human interaction. Writing or history classes are very discussion oriented so that you can learn to communicate well.

JC: Nursing is not an example of a science that is abstract because nurses are the biggest advocate for the patient. There is very much the sense that there’re people on the other end. We take many classes teaching us the nuances about human interactions with a patient. Our patient is always number one.  But the reason humanities is easier is because all that learned in an English class we could have learned by just living in the world.

SS: But I don’t think you can communicate well what you learned by living in the world. I think Humanities majors describe what science majors are doing. It’s easier for me to just solve an equation than tell you how I solved that equation. I think a humanities major would make a narrative out of that: he’d describe solving an equation as if it were a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

JP: I think Humanities majors are important and relevant to scientists. Just consider science journalists who figure out what the scientists are doing and communicate it to the rest of the world in laymen’s terms. They can work hand-in-hand together.

JC: But is it worth having a specific major just to learn how to put things in laymen’s terms? Because as science majors we also have to take writing classes. The difference is that in science, you’re actually learning something tangibly new. You can almost feel your brain wrinkling because you’ve learned something new. But when you’re learning how to write, you’re not learning something as tangible.

JP: Writing is not just about putting words on the page. As an LJ major, I learned how to approach people for interviews and interact as a journalist. It takes practice and time learning how to find a narrative in a story. Writing takes a lot of discipline and sometimes people just can’t do it on their own so it helps to have structured classes and workshops as support group.

JC: I agree with that. And I also think with the internet and self-publishing, writing as a craft has lost value.

JP: Yeah, it is devalued because anyone can just make a blog without the proper training. And there are so many terrible blogs out there, and people are being misinformed and reading poorly written articles. So you need the training to write properly. You learn a sense of integrity that the written word is supposed to have, and classes in the Humanities are supposed to teach you that.

SS: And jumping off from that, another big appeal of Humanities majors is that you learn how to think, as if you’re a science major you can’t think. I don’t agree with that conception either.

AA: You know, I have a professor this quarter who said, “Don’t believe everything I say.” That implies that he wants us to think about things differently and not simply follow his lead.

JC: That’s something that science does not teach you. In science classes, you learn to memorize and regurgitate.

JP: Not necessarily true. I am taking a class called “Math for Elementary School teachers” and they’re teaching us to not just teach math in one specific way because people learn in different ways. For instance, there are different ways of looking at a fraction. So the STEM fields can merge with the Humanities field to make learn effectively.

JC: But some subjects are just cut and dry memorization like microbiology. You just have to memorize the diseases and what they do to the body.

SS: Sure, there are some basic memorization that you just have to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all memorization. There are nuances in both STEM and Humanities fields, and one is not easier than the other just because the method of learning is different.

 

Sumeet Singh is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at sumees1@uci.edu

Jessica Pratt is a fourth-year Literary Journalism major. She can be reached at jrpratt@uci.edu.

Aliza Asad is a second-year international studies major. She can be reached at aasad@uci.edu.

Joyce Chen is a fourth-year nursing science major. She can be reached at joycec1@uci.edu