Checking Science GEs Off The List

I am not a science person. In fact, I am not a science-technology-engineering-mathematics (“STEM”) person. This fact resulted in my parents’ mild disappointment, but even more minimal surprise. Throughout high school I veered away from AP Biology, Chemistry and Calculus, and found refuge in Honors English, AP Psychology and Drama instead. But those rudimentary physics, statistics and anatomy classes that I slugged through were, to me, dreaded and boring.

When I got to college I wasn’t sure what my major was going to be, but I knew I could start checking my science GEs off the list. I was nervous and apprehensive about taking college-level science and math courses, because I hadn’t done so hot in high school. Therefore it was a huge surprise to me when I really enjoyed the science classes I took at UC Irvine. Of course, the classes had interesting titles such as “Human Development from Conception to Birth” and “Mind, Memory and Brain.” From what I could tell, they were miles away from the freshman bio major class I sat in on with a friend one afternoon when I had nothing to do — and would probably enjoyed doing nothing more.

I am not saying that bio, or science and math in general, cannot be interesting. I am just saying that my distaste and boredom with STEM subjects seems to be shared with a lot of the non-STEM majors I have encountered in my time here. Those science classes I took were enjoyable to me because they focused more on people as a whole, and how biology could affect their social presence and behavior.  If the classes had been about the minute details of cellular development, or whatever else they were talking about that solitary afternoon in my friend’s lecture in the threatening Physical Science Lecture Hall, I probably wouldn’t have lasted very long.

Even though I ended up enjoying the science classes I took, not every non-science major has the same experience I did. Even so, I am not particularly upset about having been forced to take those classes. In fact, I think the general education requirements for this school are pretty well-rounded. I am a little surprised at myself for having this reaction, but I’m being honest! The STEM general education requirements I took were a lot more enjoyable than the ones I had been subjected to throughout the rest of my education, they were of a lot shorter duration than I was used to (surprise — I’m a fan of the quarter system!) and, because they were more interesting, I retained a lot more of the information than I had in previous years of STEM classes.

Of course, in general, STEM classes, degrees and majors are typically given higher status and importance in terms of getting a job, getting into college, and even simply in people’s minds as “practical,” “useful” or “impressive.” Why is that? Are the STEM enthusiasts suggesting that unless your major or career makes a contribution to medicine, technology, or what have you, then it isn’t worthwhile or respectable?

What would life be without entertainment, movies, books, theatre, sports, news, law or dance? Sure, someone might find a cure for cancer, but once a cancer patient is cured, don’t they want to enjoy a life filled with interesting activities and entertainment?

There has long been the argument that the arts, sports and English and all of the other “soft” majors are just as important as STEM fields. And they are. One is not particularly better than the other, nor does there seem to be more of a demand for one than the other, only a social hierarchy. I think we would all be happier if life were like general education requirements — well-rounded.

 

Karam Johal is a fourth-year women’s studies major. She can be reached at johalk@uci.edu.