Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Is Worse Than A "Lost Soul"? An Ignorant Lost Soul!

Here's a hint to a freshman English/Journalism major: when you are trying to shore up support for your cause, it is always not a good idea to make a side-swipe at something else that is irrelevant to your point. Not only will you alienate those who could potentially support what you are trying to do, but it makes your case looks WEAK since you are trying to strengthen your case by putting down others, more so when it is done based on utter ignorance of what the others actually do!

This "writer" of an "independent" college newspaper (at least it was independent when I was a student at UW-Madison many years ago) is trying to argue why the study of humanities should be supported. I have zero issues with that. But his argument on why it should be supported took a nasty and condescending attitude towards the sciences, which of course, got my goat!

Today it seems like the emphasis put on math and science in our country has made students satisfied with learning by sitting in lecture and simply regurgitating facts on multiple-choice Scantrons in a mindless Dark Age of their own. Either that or the encouragement math and science students get has warranted their claims that students like myself studying the humanities are “lost souls” or that their degrees are “worthless.”

With math and science majors, their degrees make them highly qualified to many employers because those fields are directly related to the profitable technology industry. These types of students get through college studying the Krebs cycle and the calculus of motion only to reiterate it for their professors on their exams before forgetting it weeks later when a couple thirsty Thursdays wipe their memories clear, leaving them space for new information. Sure, they can dazzle with Darwin’s theory and calculate quantum physics, but in the area of critical thinking, they seem to be lacking.

Holy bunch of crap, Batman!

I won't tackle that issue with students and scientists only regurgitating what they have been taught, because I've already addressed this issue in one of my entries on "Imagination without knowledge is ignorance waiting to happen", and this guy certainly has a LOT of ignorant imagination, for a freshman! Now, the issue of "critical thinking" is something that I've mentioned many times on here, because it is the MAIN reason why I believe that more people should be studying physics/sciences because it emphasize critical and systematic approach to thinking and solving problems, and not just related to science problems. It is the impetus for my series on revamping the introductory undergraduate physics laboratories. I've even given specific examples on how the skill of thinking systematically can be acquired via studying physics and trying to work through a physics problem.

The author here is confusing between rote skills that one also need to be able to work through a problem in math and physics, and the analytical thinking skills that one can acquire when doing such problems. He seems to only see the former. The domain of "critical thinking" isn't a monopoly of the humanities. In fact, I would say that a large part of the sciences does nothing but critical thinking. How else can one explain how major shift in our understanding of the world we live in has occurred? To be able to understand some of the most complex and complicated phenomena in the world require such critical thinking, and not simply regurgitating what has been taught or known! It is why the boundary of our knowledge continues to expand!

In addition to that, even the humanities are coat-tailing on the sciences, especially physics. One only needs to look at various principles of physics that have been adapted into various fields of humanities, highlighted by the bastardization of physics by post-modernism.

Make your argument on why the study of humanities is important today, why it is a necessary component of a civilized society. Don't try to show your importance by taking a swipe at others. It only makes you look like a bitter and angry politician!


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