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?