After our lecture on Monday I began to think about the ideals behind a liberal arts education. Originally the liberal arts were considered to be logic, grammar and rhetoric. Eventually the liberal arts evolved to include quadrivium, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music. After learning about the origins of a liberal arts degree I began to think about how it applies to a Colby College education. In thinking more about life at Colby I realized that there is in fact a clear divide between the two cultures. However, I do believe there are some exceptions to the cultural divide which has helped to keep the liberal arts alive.
When looking at colleges my search focused on liberal arts schools exclusively. Coming into college i believed that it was important to be well versed in many different concentrations rather than a single subject. While being at Colby I have taken a wide array of classes ranging from classical civilization to extraterrestrial life. While I consider myself to be a more science based thinker, I have still found all of the classes which I have taken to be interesting. However, many people here at Colby take classes which only focuses on the field in which the plan to pursue post graduation. While Colby encourages student to explore new fields and discover new interests many students would rather take classes which only count towards their major or minor.
While students at Colby are often determined to quickly get through their distribution requirements many students never experience a distribution requirement. There are many colleges and universities in which students enroll directly into their desired career path. However, I find it hard to believe that freshman students fully know what they want to pursue a career in without exploring all options. By opting out of taking courses in various departments it prevents students from potentially finding new passions or interests. The ideal of specializing in a single subject seems unrealistic. The reason being that every idea and thought in the world is not a stand alone issues. However, the greatest issues in the world require dynamic thinking and creative problem solving. It is for this reason that students should not be restricted to a single subject but rather should have the chance to learn about various subjects and their effects of society. However, todays education system puts more focus and importance on getting a job after college than becoming a well-rounded individual.
However, when I began to take classes in the Science, Technology, and Society field, I realized that not all students are focused on checking off boxes. In the two STS courses which I have taken during my time at Colby thus far I have found students who interests vary. In the course in which I took over the fall semester, Origins, there were computer science majors interested in creative writing, biology majors interested in refugee resources, and many more insightful students. Students who seek out STS as a field of study often understand that the world cannot be looked at through a single lens. What I began to realize through the courses I have taken in the STS department is that interdisciplinary fields allow for the liberal arts culture to survive.
While many of C.P. Snow’s theories shared in The Two Cultures are widely rejected today, it does not mean that all of his work is irrelevant. Similar to being told to not only play one sport, not only read books from one genre, or only eat one food, focusing in one field of learning should not be pushed. Snow shared this belief that centralizing education around one field is influential today. Defiance against specialized education is essential to our learning and our education system. Continue reading
C.P. Snow’s The Two Cultures discusses the cultural divison between the field of science and the humanities. He begins with a historical assessment of the respective fields of study and their degree of influence throughout time. From there, he goes on to explain how science is the more applicable to our current society and that it will continue to gain prevalence in the future. As a liberal arts student I am predisposed to oppose this argument, however when I think about it honestly, I have to admit that the study of information, data, and analysis will proceed to play an increasingly relevant role in our daily lives.
I believe that in the coming decades, the fields of science and technology will continue to become a necessary element of our every day routines. The decline of hard-copy, handwritten material is a major indicator of this. With electronic substitutes for everything springing up everywhere we look, it is clear that a thorough understanding and acceptance of science is absolutely inevitable. Almost every position for current college graduates looking to enter the workforce requires a high level of comfort with a wide array of computer systems, data manipulation, and numerical analysis. I expect this trend to continue and accelerate along with the abundant increases in technology and science.
However, I do presume that while it is still quite a while down the road, the humanitarian studies will begin to adapt and become integrated with technological sciences. Areas like law, publishing, and literature in general will begin to become intertwined with new programs and systems and allow them to regain a prominent role in our society. Programs will arise in which certain logical and qualitative resources can be analyzed and produced. The advances in science and technology will allow certain decisions that were once determined by human logic, to be simulated by data analysts and scientists. Soon articles once crafted by humans to break news, stories, and provide outlook on current events will by synthesized by programs that are able to analyze the information and churn out literature for consumers.
This is not to say that the creative ability of humans will cease to remain relevant, I simply believe that in the near future many traditionally human crafts will be met by technological automation. Much like many fields have recently been forced to adapt and redefine their role in an era of internet and technology, the field of humanities will surely begin to do so. It is difficult to predict the way in which this pivot will result, but it is simply matter of time before the natural process of evolution causes this realm of intellect to remodel itself.
I fundamentally agree that a thorough understanding of literature and science is essential in order to develop a complete and well-rounded education. The current reign of technology in our generation may make it seem as though the former is becoming obsolete, but I expect that within our lifetime we will witness a return of liberal arts prominence.