I take issue with the “right brain vs. left brain” dichotomy. For my whole life, I’ve only ever had one brain.
In my experience, most people seem to have a general perception that there are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who are good in the humanities, and the ones that are good in science, math and technical fields. They think that you can either write literary analysis essays in your English class or you can write technical lab reports in chemistry; you can either study philosophy and read history or you can study differential equations and comprehend quantum physics. Why does the world seem to think that some people’s brains are hardwired to be able to write research papers, and some people’s brains are hardwired to take derivatives and solve equations? Â
To me, it’s all a nonsensical, exaggerated binary. Sure, some people are better writers than others, and math just comes naturally to a certain lucky few. But here’s the point: why does that mean we have to live in two different worlds? At universities in general, and even right here at our dear URI, there seems to have been an invisible wall constructed between those of us who study liberal arts and those of us who study science and mathematics.
Yes, that ‘wall’ is necessary — to a point. You can’t have English students interrupting advanced physics lectures with questions about Newton’s authorial intent, and you can’t have
Pharm. D students interrupting philosophy seminars with questions about scientific objectivity.
However, that doesn’t mean a curious classics major wouldn’t be willing (or couldn’t handle) Â taking an extra-rigorous chemistry course “intended” only for science majors, if e-campus would only let him enroll.
In the same way, there shouldn’t be a problem allowing a Journalism major Â to take a course in programming languages, even if it is “intended” for computer science majors. And, there shouldn’t be a problem with an engineering major taking a challenging seminar in philosophy, as long as they’re prepared to work to understand the material. Nobody should be forced to take the ‘easier’ or ‘less rigorous’ general education version of a science or math class when they are willing to take the ‘real’ one — in fact, that attitude should be encouraged, not discouraged. Â
Of course, there are always ways around that ‘wall’ of separation — permission numbers, directly asking professors and department heads, etc. — but that only gets you so far, and it does nothing except for the most motivated students willing to struggle through lots of red tape. Instead of the current system, URI, and universities around the country, should work to foster a community of close relations between the humanities and the scientific and technical fields. It would not only be better for faculty and universities everywhere, but most importantly, it would facilitate a climate of intellectual curiosity that would directly benefit individual students every day.