I wish I didn’t have to hear so many negative comments and jokes about Humanities and Social Science degrees. I wish I didn’t have to hear people saying that taking an English or a History Major is an easy way out. Why do so many people feel the need to say, “You’re smart, why didn’t you study sciences?” Why are we immediately in awe of those in the sciences, and where’s the respect for the other disciplines?
I love both the arts and sciences, in fact I was a science major for 2 years before I decided to switch to a BA. I have a General Studies diploma with a concentration in Earth Sciences, which always surprises people. As much as I loved my first major I knew that continuing in it wasn’t going to make me happy in the long run. I realized it was more of a hobby than the career I wanted. After a gruelling semester studying geomorphology, paleontology and mineralogy, hours and hours of staying in the lab and looking at rock samples under the microscope, plus a horrible, wet field school in the BC interior, surrounded by bears and having to use a stinky pit latrine, I realized that maybe this major wasn’t for me. It was a tough decision but honestly the best decision I’ve ever made. Taking arts and humanities courses after taking so many science courses felt like a homecoming for me; all the reading, all the lovely essay writing, I felt completely at home.
It’s quite frustrating to hear people say that the arts and humanities are easy. I would like for them to try to make sense of some of the books that I’ve read. I feel for me personally studying the arts is tricky because things are evolving more quickly due to globalization, postcolonialism, etc., and also because there’s so much cross-contamination with other disciplines. There are so many developments going on in society it’s pretty much impossible to keep up with it all, but it’s all so very important. In my Global Politics course I had to read philosophy, race studies, media studies, feminist theory, history and international relations course material. All those in a politics class! Can you imagine how much reading I had to do? A lot. It’s also essential to be quick at connecting things and delving into them in depth. It’s not a walk in the park by any means, so when people say my major is easy, I believe they are essentially devaluing the time and effort I take in studying, reading, and writing.
I realize that one of the reasons that people don’t respect the humanities is because of the statistics that say that scientists earn a lot more than non-scientists. But just because someone has a science degree it doesn’t necessarily mean they will get a job working in their field anyway. And it’s too much to go into right now but I think it’s tragic that so many people study something they detest just because they believe they can get a lucrative job once they graduate.
I love the arts. They have made me a decent writer, a decent thinker, a more empathetic human being, and they have encouraged me to question things and expand my horizons. I have learned skills that I probably wouldn’t have learned in the sciences. The pursuit of knowledge is something that was instilled in me while doing my BA and now halfway through my MA. A world full of scientists, can you imagine? The same goes for a world full of arts and humanities students. We need the diversity for several reasons. We’re all different, have different brains, different personalities. It doesn’t make sense to me to hierarchize everything, creating elitism.