Field of Science

Students should learn more about science

An article in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education caught my attention, "Business students should learn more science." Who can argue with that given the technological basis of so much business. The authors of this opinion do a good job of justifying their position, they just don't go far enough. Everyone should learn more science.

Let's take a look at general education at a typical large midwestern public university. Unless you are a science major, students only have to take 7 hours of science courses, about 15% of their common curriculum. Everything else except for math (3 hours required) are subjects that exist because of human activities, and in a very broad sense of the definition, humanities. So students spend 15% of their general education learning about life and the universe, and over 75% learning about human artifacts.

Now I like literature, history, and art as much or more than the next person, and I certainly do not intend to diminish their value, but each and every subdiscipline of human artifact gets a bite from the apple (tree of knowledge), and science gets lumped together for one bite. Sorry, but I think life and the universe being relegated to just 15% of the curriculum says a great deal about our egocentric approach to knowledge, and very little about our appreciation of science.

The point that I'm making is simple: is this a fair balance in terms of what we know? I took an American literature course, and I enjoyed the readings, even the poetry, but quite frankly what transpired in terms of the dialogue and associated writings was just so much subjective opinion. Oh, there is a good exercise there; read something and think creatively about it. But does it really stack up to genetics or evolution? So it's sort of ironic that many of these people are precisely the academics that toss off evolution as "just a theory", which is an extremely, short and succinct phrase for declaring the depth and breadth of your ignorance.

We can take the comparison further. About 90% of the faculty are in the humanities studying human artifacts. That leaves 10% of us in the sciences to study life, the universe, and everything else. When stated this way it doesn't quite seem to balance out does it? Nor does 7 credits to study everything except subjects that study human artifacts.

One of my colleagues has a master's degree in literature, and when pushed they reluctantly will agree that such scholarship pales in comparison to science. Oh, but that isn't politically correct.

No comments: