Academic disciplines equally difficult

By SAM PALMER

Guest Columnist

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Allegheny College is a school that thrives on the unique combinations of all its students. It requires its students to take a wide variety of classes in the three disciplines to get many different experiences to develop the students into the highest potential they can be.

However, what is happening on campus is a significant divide between all three disciplines at Allegheny: natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. It appears that certain students have begun to believe they have a more significant workload or that their major is much tougher than others.

I am a communication arts/film production major, and an economics and history minor.

Lately I discovered that a variety of Natural Science students consider their discipline to have more applicable value, meanwhile knocking down the humanities and social sciences.

These criticisms come because humanities students spend the majority of their time away from the Pelletier Library. A theater student practices his or her skills at the Vukovich. A rhetoric student could practice using ACTV, while news writing students will write for the paper. They spend more time doing what they want to do and enjoy doing, instead of reading 60 pages on the Pythagorean theorem or memorizing the periodic table.

I am not trying to knock down certain disciplines; my goal is to try and show that all disciplines are equally difficult.

What I believe is happening is that when deciding upon a major, students ask one question: “What job will I get with a humanities degree?”

This is not a good question because one, you should be studying what you love and want to do after school, and two the humanities job market is always expanding.

“Communication majors can create their own jobs” said Professor Ishita Sinha Roy of the communications department. She cited the example of hospitals hiring communication experts to help teach doctors how to communicate with patients in the most professional manner.

Sinha Roy also mentioned that some of the most illustrious alumni of Allegheny have professions in the humanities. Ida Tarbell was the first female investigative journalist in the United States. Ben Burtt, Jr. is an Oscar-winning sound designer for the “Star Wars” films. And Lloyd Segan was an executive producer for the television show Greek. Sinha Roy noted that the humanities discipline is undervalued because of that simple question, “what career will I be able to get?”

Morgan Flaherty,’14, represents the other side of the spectrum. Flaherty is biology major and not shy when boasting about the toughness of his major/discipline. He feels chemistry is the toughest major at Allegheny.

“You have to understand the mechanisms behind every chemical reaction. You have to intuitively know how molecules will interact with one another,” Flaherty said. “It requires extremely abstract thinking that few, if any, other disciplines can match.”

At Allegheny the humanities department includes art, communication arts, dance, English, classical languages, music, philosophy and religious studies. These majors rely heavily on writing one’s own ideas. Claiming that other disciplines do not use as much abstract thinking could be misguided because people only take intro level course in other disciplines (outside their minor).

“One discipline is not more difficult than the other, they are just different,” said Zachery Callen, a professor in political science. “Each major pulls on different skills of every student.”

Callen mentioned the reason there is a little tension between disciplines is because people are protective of their own division and enjoy pointing out the weaknesses of others and emphasizing their own strengths.

All disciplines and majors are different from one another. Everyone has specific strengths and weaknesses. Some are very analytical thinkers while others are very abstract. That does not mean one is better, it means they’re different.

Every class allows a student to learn something that helps him or her develop skills for other classes.

“You can be the best doctor in the world, but you must know how to communicate or nobody will know how great you are,” Sinha Roy said.

The social sciences rely on both disciplines to develop students learning skills while the humanities would not have anything to discuss or refer to if there were no natural sciences, or possible questions brought to the table.

Initially when I planned on writing this piece, I was going to signify the value of the humanities and social sciences departments compared to the natural sciences, but after doing my research and discussing the topic with various students and professors, I have discovered that we rely on all of these different disciplines. One is not better than the other.

“That is why a liberal arts degree is so effective,” Sinha Roy said. “It allows students to overlap in many different topics, which creates a sense of flexibility and adaptability.”