The Problem with “Liberal” Arts

As a student of a liberal arts college that does host a variety of science and math majors, I often get to treated to assessments of which majors are “hard” and which majors are “easy.” The general consensus – especially with the mathematically inclined – is that the science and math classes are very hard, while the liberal arts of the school are “easy,” or easier. Even within the humanities we see the categorizing of easy and hard. I heard of a communications major who made an argument that geography was easy, hence “why all the athletes take it.” I’ve heard more than one journalism major accuse communications as being easy.

Maybe it’s true if we look simply at grades. But what I’ve run into more and more is that the humanities of the liberal arts aren’t so liberal after all. At least with science and math there’s a well-established “right” answer. The way to get to that answer isn’t always easy – it’s quite difficult, typically – but it’s still usually very cut and dry. With the humanities – communications, journalism, what have you – there’s no right answer.

Of course, this isn’t a problem in a perfect world. The idea behind these studies – or at least how I’ve always perceived them to be – is that we learn and grow off one another. We read scholar’s work and assess their meanings, shaping our own understanding. The beauty of there being no right answer is that sometimes we don’t always agree with the scholar or the professor, and that’s okay.

But more and more, I’m realizing that this isn’t true. Maybe I’m being cynical – in fact, I know a part of me is – but I feel like some of my college experience is staying in the confines of what my professors believe so that I can achieve a “good” grade. Last week, for instance, I had a class where we discussed the other and “othering”. My professor made a well supported argument that “othering” doesn’t go both ways; I disagree with her. (This could be an interesting blog post on it’s own.) Although I feel justified in my opinion and feel it would make an excellent essay, I’ve realized that it will never come to fruition. I will likely regurgitate what I’ve been taught by her on my exams because this is the way the system works. We are rewarded for sticking to the status-quo.

To be fair, I’ve had some excellent classes where I’ve been challenged, where my viewpoints, although they may differ from the professor’s, were accepted if they could be backed up. Even with my example, I’m not accusing my professor of not listening to me – she might accept a well-written paper that disagrees with her. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that it’s the system that needs some tweaking; maybe I need to adjust my values, where I care less about my grades and more about expanding my horizon.

Maybe I’m just complaining.

What do you think? How do your professors handle various viewpoints?

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New year, new set of unrealistic goals.

It’s always amusing this time of year to walk by any of the gyms on campus; thanks to New Years resolutions, the often half-empty gyms and work out rooms are near capacity with students hoping to slim down. Of course, come February, you’ll never see them again (once again freeing up the elliptical.) New Year’s resolutions, for this very reason, have always seemed silly to me. How many people actually stick with them for a full year? How many people are like me, who start January 1st with a list of hopeful (and near impossible) goals – “I’m going to lose five pounds!” “I’m going to learn to sew!” – only to forget about them before Martin Luther King Jr. day?

After reading a wonderful post by my friend Krista on her resolutions, I was inspired to do some research. Maybe I’m just a completely pessimistic person when it comes to self improvement, but I expected research to show that few people maintained their goals through the month, much less the year. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. According to a pretty interesting psychology study, 64% of adults who make New Years resolutions kept them after the first month. Even more surprisingly, almost half were still keeping up with their resolutions after 6 months!

Maybe I’m just the one who’s bad at keeping these resolutions, then. But, in the spirit of the new year – and only a month late – I’m officially declaring my resolutions. Will I keep them? Let’s look back in a year and see. At the very least, everyone has something to hold over my head for the rest of the year.

  1. The obligatory “I will be healthier/lose weight/stop eating junk” resolution: I wouldn’t be an actual New Year’s resolutionizer (not a word, but it should be) if I didn’t set this goal. Until the gyms clear out, though, I’ll stick with my Wii Fit instead of waiting an hour for a machine.
  2. Be a better daughter and sister. I can admit that, looking back this past year, I’ve not been as good of a family member as I could be. There’s been more than a few times where I promised to call before forgetting the next day. I’ve had my little sister turn her pitiful gray eyes at me in an attempt to get me to play Wii with her. If I only keep one resolution this year, I hope it’s this one.
  3. Stop being self-deprecating as a coping mechanism. I totally do it for humor. In fact, I’m sure if we looked at the “About” tab of this blog, you’d find some snide crack at myself. It’s much easier to joke about myself than to hear it from somebody else. I need to stop – I know I’m better than that. If you see me doing this, tell me to stop!
  4. Take the shot. When I’m uncomfortable or unsure, I tend to let others take over. I’m sure there are some people who won’t believe this about me, but I can be surprisingly inactive if I’m not 100% sure of success. Roommates irritating me? I’d rather rant about it to a friend than start a conflict, even if it’s needed. If there’s a difficult internship up for grabs, I’d rather let other people apply than face rejection. As the great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” It may be hokey and overused in high school graduation speeches, but this year I vow to take all the shots in my life.

Part of me feels confident that this is my year, the year I lose 10 pounds/score a dream job/dramatically improve my life. The other, much more realistic part of me realizes that if I can uphold even one of these resolutions the full year, it’ll be a major success. Either way, I hope you join me for the ride.

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions this year? How long do you maintain them? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: Welcome Birchbox

I was lucky enough to get a subscription to this great site, Birchbox, for Christmas. If you’ve never heard of it before, Birchbox sends you a cute, hot pink package every month full of four to five high-end beauty samples based on your interests and needs. You know how in “The Devil Wears Prada” Andy gets access to the beauty closet? It’s like that, only you don’t have to work for a super bitch at a glossy magazine. Even better, you can purchase the full size products (with free shipping!) from the site and earn points that go towards major discounts.

I got my “Welcome to Birchbox” box a few days ago; it came with a bottle of nail polish, lotion, lip gloss, and perfume. The “bonus” gift was a powdered drink. Although I meant to take pictures for a super great review, I … didn’t. Excuse the pictures taken directly from the site. I’ll try and be more legit next month.

On to the products after the jump! Continue reading

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