Calculus for arts students

The Stammering Dunce
2 min readSep 18, 2023

Also published on Wordpress.

If someone asks you, why non-STEM university students should learn STEM subjects like math and physics, you would probably answer well-roundedness as a benefit. While I do agree well-roundedness is a good thing, there is a problem with that answer: why in universities?

Before they graduated high schools, students had to endure at least twelve years of formal education. That means they had twelve years — twelve goddamn years — to be academically well-rounded. By the time you enroll in universities, you should have the right to specialise.

If those twelve years of formal education fail to breed academically well-rounded individuals, the problem is obviously on the primary and secondary education. Fix the schools, not the universities.

But, if you insist on having “well-rounded” university curricula, you should be mindful about what kind of STEM classes you want students to take.

One thing you should acknowledge: if they lack any interest in STEM or worse, hate them, they wouldn’t learn anything. They wouldn’t see the classes as learning experiences, they would see them as a waste of time, money and resources. Not to mention a source of unnecessary stress.

Therefore, if you want the STEM courses to have an impact on non-STEM students, they have to be immediately applicable to their majors. Social science students can study statistics, philosophy students study mathematical logic and visual arts students study geometry.

And I also want the same thing in reverse.

Instead of forcing STEM students to study ancient philosophy and art history, why don’t we force them to study applicable non-STEM courses? Engineering and computer science students study the history and ethics of technology and medical students study history of medicine and bioethics.

I prefer this approach because students would have much easier time applying the courses to their chosen disciplines. Once they acknowledge the applicability, they will realise any disciplines, including their majors, can be interdisciplinary.

Once they acknowledge the multifaceted nature, they will realise the horizon is far broader than they thought it was. They will realise our approaches to knowledge-seeking and problem-solving shouldn’t be limited to a handful.

Any angles are useful, if you can acknowledge their usefulness.

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