Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Does it matter if a person is educated in either the arts or science faculties? Campus TV news wants to interview me on this topic... not that I'm any authority on the matter. I just agreed to it out of professional courtesy to a fellow campus news organization. Indulge me while I think aloud in preparation for tomorrow's taping.

As a general overview, both disciplines are essential to a person's educational development. The sciences help us understand our environment thereby allowing us to harness natural phenomena and employ them for our benefit. The arts help us to understand ourselves as human beings, and give us the ability to express ourselves and organize our relationships with each other and the world around us. So in a sense, the sciences look at us from the outside in, while the arts look at us from the inside out.

Both disciplines are important because they function best in partnership with each other. The arts power the imagination from which science draws the inspiration to seek new knowledge. But the arts also remind us of our humanity, which puts a brake on science, preventing us from going too far too quickly for our own good.

It's unfortunate that Education has split the arts and the sciences into diverging learning paths. The impression on us is that the two are pretty much mutually exclusive. The arts appear to us as idealistic and impractical, while the sciences seem rigidly pragmatic and insanely boring. Who in their right minds would want to be educated if these were the only two possible choices?

Usually, the deciding factor for students (or their parents) is in determining which course of study will lead to the more lucrative outcome. So rather than acquiring knowledge for its own sake, these poor kids chase an elusive price tag that exists only as a promise somewhere in the distant future.

For some reason, there's the impression that there's more money to be made in the practical sciences than in the airy-fairy arts. Hence the gross imbalance in the numbers of science vs arts students. And this imbalance fuels its own myth: more people are lining up for science than arts, therefore science must be better. It's the bandwagon fallacy operating on a societal scale.

Going solely on the which-makes-more-money premise, I would say that the most successful (I mean wealthiest) self-made capitalist pig-dogs (self-made to eliminate inherited money) are usually those who have integrated their appreciation for both the arts and sciences. They are 'artsy' in that they know how to work relationships with other people and sell them on story-like promises, but they are also 'scientific' in that they've been able to develop products to sell. It helps when their products work well too.

Gates. Jobs. Spielberg. Beckham. Branson. Trump. Or look at any world-famous brand-name. Arts or science? Smart money will say arts AND science.

Sadly, at JC level, students are already segregated according to their faculty of study. But that doesn't mean that they're set for life as "arts" or "science" people. As long as they don't rely on their textbooks to tell them how to live life, but rather learn to live life by living, I think they'll do just fine.

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