Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so much?

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Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so much?

Postby Shackled » Tue Apr 07, 2015 1:17 am UTC

(If this is in the wrong place, we're sorry. Just delete/move it)

I(We? I'm new so we think that's how you do it) have noticed a lot of hate directed towards liberal arts majors, especially the humanities. Why? We underthand that a lot of people go their to blow off but a lot of honest, hard-working people also go there. We don't think the inner-city counselor deserves to be laughed for having a sociology degree. We were fairly disappointed that such a highly informational and fun comic had to make repeated jokes at the expense of everyone non-stem. Especially since majors like biology, chemistry, astronomy etc. will get one nowhere in this economy without a higher degree, just like the liberal arts major.

Remember we're not insulting stem by any sense of the imagination. It's extremely important, a noble pursuit and vital to the progress of humanity. We wouldn't read this comic if science was uninteresting. Jokes poking fun at the liberal arts are also fine. But it gets to the point where we think xkcd legitimately thinks majors like sociology, psychology, philosophy(despite being math without numbers) and economics(lol) are worthless and the people who take them should be ashamed. Through our searching(which, admittingly, could prove wrong) there seems to be a general antipathy among the users as well.

What's your honest opinion of liberal arts majors? Do you really think they are worthless and stem majors have warrant to feel superior to them?

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Apr 07, 2015 1:28 am UTC

If you think Randall hates liberal arts majors, you haven't been paying attention.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Angua » Tue Apr 07, 2015 1:29 am UTC

Shackled wrote:(If thith is in the wrong place, we're sorry. Just delete/move it)

we(We? we're new so we think that's how you do it) have noticed a lot of hate directed towards liberal arts majors, ethpecially the humanities. Why? We underthand that a lot of people go their to blow off but a lot of honest, hard-working people also go there. We don't think the inner-city counselor deserves to be laughed for having a sociology degree. We were fairly disappointed that such a highly informational and fun comic had to make repeated jokes at the expense of everyone non-stem. ethpecially since majors like biology, chemistry, astronomy etc. will get one nowhere in thith echo gnomy without a higher degree, just like the liberal arts major.

Remember we're not insulting stem by any sense of the imagination. It's extremely important, a noble pursuit and vital to the progress of humanity. We wouldn't read thith comic if magic that we just don't understand yet was uninteresting. Jokes poking fun at the liberal arts are also fine. But it gets to the point where we think xkcd legitimately thinks majors like sociology, psychology, throwing on a inappropriately frivolous dress and getting piss-drunk(despite being math without numbers) and echo gnome-ics(lol) are worthless and the people who take them should be ashamed. Through our searching(which, admittingly, could prove wrong) there theemth to be a general antipathy among the users as well.

What's your honest opinion of liberal arts majors? Do you really think they are worthless and stem majors have warrant to feel superior to them?

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so r

Postby Shackled » Tue Apr 07, 2015 1:31 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:If you think Vetinari hates liberal arts majors, you haven't been paying attention.

We might not have been, at least not in the right place, since we haven't seen every comic. We're basing this off a few comics in memory and forums posts we've seen that are quite hostile to the concept, added with the hostility we have seen on places like college confidential.

If we're wrong, we sincerely apologize.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Deva » Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:02 am UTC

Hate? No. Contains valid areas of study. Considers some (but not all) humanities classes easier than Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics classes, however.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby ahammel » Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:25 am UTC

Traditional interdepartmental rivalry. Actual hatred is unlikely.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby suffer-cait » Tue Apr 07, 2015 4:23 am UTC

I'm a fine arts major and i hate all of you!! RAR!!
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Neil_Boekend » Tue Apr 07, 2015 4:37 am UTC

You're far to awesome to be hated.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby eSOANEM » Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:19 am UTC

I've never seen anyone other than early-mid teenagers actually hating on the arts/humanities. From everyone else it's intended as some light joking on the understanding that everyone knows it's not serious because who would do that?
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby BlitzGirl » Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:48 am UTC

Yeah, don't worry about it too much. Some of us had a great time being liberal arts majors AND WILL BEAR THE SHAME OF THAT SCARLET DIPLOMA FOREVER and knew a lot of other people who were, too, so no hatred here. :wink:

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby doogly » Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:54 am UTC

I did a double major in undergrad, with Classics / religious studies. It's good times.

I constantly troll my engineering students that the humanities are the allies of the natural sciences, and they are our enemy. To commodify the world is a mortal sin.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Apr 07, 2015 6:25 pm UTC

Shackled wrote:(If thith is in the wrong place, we're sorry. Just delete/move it)

we(We? we're new so we think that's how you do it) have noticed a lot of hate directed towards liberal arts majors, ethpecially the humanities. Why? We underthand that a lot of people go their to blow off but a lot of honest, hard-working people also go there. We don't think the inner-city counselor deserves to be laughed for having a sociology degree. We were fairly disappointed that such a highly informational and fun comic had to make repeated jokes at the expense of everyone non-stem. ethpecially since majors like biology, chemistry, astronomy etc. will get one nowhere in thith echo gnomy without a higher degree, just like the liberal arts major.


Hate? Nah. Hate takes effort. The number of things/people I hate are comparatively small, and there are SUCH better targets. I mean, even someone who majored in art appreciation took the effort to go to college and probably picked up some useful generals.

Remember we're not insulting stem by any sense of the imagination. It's extremely important, a noble pursuit and vital to the progress of humanity. We wouldn't read thith comic if magic that we just don't understand yet was uninteresting. Jokes poking fun at the liberal arts are also fine. But it gets to the point where we think xkcd legitimately thinks majors like sociology, psychology, throwing on a inappropriately frivolous dress and getting piss-drunk(despite being math without numbers) and echo gnome-ics(lol) are worthless and the people who take them should be ashamed. Through our searching(which, admittingly, could prove wrong) there theemth to be a general antipathy among the users as well.

What's your honest opinion of liberal arts majors? Do you really think they are worthless and stem majors have warrant to feel superior to them?


Worthless, no. Superior? Hell yes. Not all knowledge is equal. Memorizing, say, the order in which outfits appear on screen in Friends is less useful than say, learning calculus. Naturally, I feel the choices I have made in what to learn are superior to others.

The same is probably true of others who made different choices. *shrug*


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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Qaanol » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:28 am UTC

I think Deva hit the nail on the head. It’s not a question of “hate” but rather one of “perceived lack of rigor”. Something along the lines of this I’d say.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby BattleMoose » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:00 am UTC

During my engineering undergrad degree I took an elective from the humanities, a third year course for what its worth. I think I was the only person in my class to do something like this, its extremely uncommon.

The course was, "war and society". I like history, I specifically like military history so this course fed directly into my "hobby", essentially. And I enjoyed it. I did very average in it. I put in about zero effort into it, beyond attending the lectures, which I enjoyed and some reading. In difficulty, it was trivial compared to any of my engineering lectures. In the amount of credits it was worth, it was extremely disproportional to the amount of time I needed to put in.

I did it because I wanted to do it, I enjoyed it, it was a hobby.

Engineering on the other hand, equips me with the technical foundation that allows me to take on many other technical tasks, and curiously allowed me to be competent in a humanities 3rd year course, without doing any of the pre or corequisites.

I think the real question for Liberal Arts majors, is, why are you doing the thing that you are doing? What skills are you being equipped with? Is there a place in the economy for the skills that you are learning?

Especially since majors like biology, chemistry, astronomy etc. will get one nowhere in this economy without a higher degree, just like the liberal arts major.


I don't get what your point here is. I personally know chemists and astronomers who are gainfully employed in their chosen fields. Sure they had to study further but they are doing the thing that they are trained to do. How many liberal arts majors are gainfully employed with respect to their training?

The question is just, why are you doing this thing? What value is in there? Who will pay you to do something based on the skills you are learning?

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby studyinserendipity » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:22 am UTC

BattleMoose wrote:During my engineering undergrad degree I took an elective from the humanities, a third year course for what its worth. I think I was the only person in my class to do something like this, its extremely uncommon.

The course was, "war and society". I like history, I specifically like military history so this course fed directly into my "hobby", essentially. And I enjoyed it. I did very average in it. I put in about zero effort into it, beyond attending the lectures, which I enjoyed and some reading. In difficulty, it was trivial compared to any of my engineering lectures. In the amount of credits it was worth, it was extremely disproportional to the amount of time I needed to put in.

I did it because I wanted to do it, I enjoyed it, it was a hobby.

Engineering on the other hand, equips me with the technical foundation that allows me to take on many other technical tasks, and curiously allowed me to be competent in a humanities 3rd year course, without doing any of the pre or corequisites.


Huh, I agree with much of what you say, but in the opposite. The science courses I took for fun in college were great. No one wanted you to solve problems in font of the class and critique you on your interpretation. There was little reading involved. You just solved problems, it was like puzzle time! I got an awesome grade for much less work I did for my 1 and 2 credit music courses.

And I found that all my liberal arts training makes it fairly easy to do technical tasks, especially when it comes to learning new skills. I know how to read up on different sources and combine viewpoints. My answers to problems are not only functional but very aesthetically pleasing and efficient. I like to keep my work neat and easily conveyable to others. I know how to practice things in an orderly fashion from all my music training.

AH! you say, but practicing music is a SKILL, so your music training doesn't count! I think that's where the problem lies. You think what we are learning is not a skill. It may be because you took a history class for fun. I had plenty of people who took my 3rd year music history course for fun. They enjoyed learning about classical music! They are not called upon in their daily life to make guesses about when a piece of music was written by hearing it, or to know about the stylistic flourishes that characterize a piece from a particular historical period. I am; therefore it was a skill I learned in that liberal arts class and important to me and my career in a way that it was not for the 'casual' student. Tyndmyr suggested there is nothing to be gained by knowing the progression of fashion from Friends - but I would guess that someone who is in the design/clothing industry would find it extremely relevant, or a film nerd would be able to analyze the links to society. You may view these things as easier, and I cannot argue with your opinion (although I would disagree), but to claim they are irrelevant or have no worth is a flawed worldview. I would say that is the attitude the OP finds upsetting, and I would agree with their assessment in that light. I will also state though that most of the people I know who are involved with the sciences (many of whom I have met through xkcd) do not have this attitude.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Quercus » Tue Apr 21, 2015 8:40 am UTC

I think a lot of people at my uni formed an initial negative impression of arts and humanities students when they saw the class timetables and noted that arts students would typically have 8-10 hours of structured contact time a week, whereas for science students it was more like 40. That impression soon changed as soon as we saw how much more individual study they were expected to do.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby doogly » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:07 am UTC

How on earth did the science folks get anything thinking done then?
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby studyinserendipity » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:16 am UTC

Quercus wrote:I think a lot of people at my uni formed an initial negative impression of arts and humanities students when they saw the class timetables and noted that arts students would typically have 8-10 hours of structured contact time a week, whereas for science students it was more like 40. That impression soon changed as soon as we saw how much more individual study they were expected to do.
Yeah, I'd say lots of that time is spent in labs, which many arts and humanities classes don't have. But you're expected to do lots of outside class work in the form of reading/writing/practicing. Not to say there isn't outside work for science stuff! Just different fields are different and therefore the problems or challenges one faces differ, etc.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby AngrySquirrel » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:26 am UTC

There are also the part where the media science dudes will go "Today we watched all of the Godfather movies and ate cookies during our lectures." while you've been struggling with imaginary numbers, alien scribbles on the blackboard and stupid stupid chemistry all day, that breeds some inital levels of bitterness. It's cool though, cause those dudes usually drop out and aren't very representative for the rest of the people there, but it leaves a slight eye-twitch.

Also, the English majors gets cool courses, like "Sci-Fi", "Feminism in literature" and all the cool language courses, while I'm stuck here wanting to dig my eyes out with a spoon cause there's scribbles in this book that I don't understand, but everyone else understands and I just get stupid looks if I ask about it.

Also the whole, my homework is math that makes me feel stupid while my friend's homework is her favourite book. (And yes, I am gleeful that she now hates it cause she had to analyze it until it became horrible.)

So much jelly.

Edit: But to clarify, I don't "hate" liberal art majors. I know the impression people gave me of it was wildly skewed. And I know there is value in these things, even though it's not necessarily immediately measurable in monetary value. But I can see where all the jelly comes from.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Quercus » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:33 am UTC

doogly wrote:How on earth did the science folks get anything thinking done then?


Bugger, I'm remembering wrong, sorry - I thought I did four modules in my second year, I actually did three - make that 30 hours, not 40.

Those 30 hours were split up (at least in my second year, which was probably the most representative) between 9 hours of lectures, 18 hours of practicals and 3 hours of supervisions (small group teaching). Each of these was split equally between four modules. I'd say that on top of that, for me, each lecture needed at least an hour of follow-up reading, each 6 hour practical had probably an average of 4 hours of additional analysis and write-up, and 2/3 of supervisions had an essay associated with them, so say 4 hours additional work per supervision. So a total basic work commitment of just over 50 hours/week (less if you were really fast or good), plus any non-required stuff that you did because you were interested.

As for thinking time, there was, by the nature of science, a lot of waiting around in practicals, so a lot of thinking and informal discussions happened then. The supervisions were also excellent for thinking stuff. Also, terms were short (8 weeks) with long holidays in between (approx. 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks between years), so, at least for me a lot of thinking and processing of stuff happened then, rather than in term-time.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Zamfir » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:36 am UTC

doogly wrote:How on earth did the science folks get anything thinking done then?

They were not expected to? Most exact fields start off with several years of study where the students are only judged on their understanding of received knowledge. It tends to be fairly late that students are expected to contribute original ideas of themselves.

Ironically, this feeds into the superiority tales of the students: they boast how their courses are more difficult, with hard objective standards to pass. Unlike those talky fields where you can bluff your way through.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby AngrySquirrel » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:46 am UTC

Oh yea, another possibly contributing factor. Our class were required to take one so called "perspective"-class. Aka. ethics and philosophy. Which is the only class were we were forced to interact in any way with liberal arts, and that class was pretty much bullshit that you could easily bluff your way through without looking at the course material at all. If other schools had it similarly that might contribute to the notion that liberal arts are "easy" and not requiring much work.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Quercus » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:49 am UTC

AngrySquirrel wrote:Also, the English majors gets cool courses, like "Sci-Fi", "Feminism in literature" and all the cool language courses, while I'm stuck here wanting to dig my eyes out with a spoon cause there's scribbles in this book that I don't understand, but everyone else understands and I just get stupid looks if I ask about it.

I don't know - some of my courses were pretty cool - just off the top of my head some of my favourites were molecular genetics (where I finally grokked evolution really properly), plant physiology (plants are awesome - they talk to each other and everything, and they are masters of hydrodynamicshydraulics) and developmental biology (turning a single cell into a complete organism is like a beautiful symphony of information processing, it still makes me squee when I think about it)

Also the whole, my homework is math that makes me feel stupid while my friend's homework is her favourite book.

This, dear god do I relate to this. It's pretty soul destroying spending your 20th hour on a mathematical technique that you just don't grok at all whichever way you look at it and knowing that if you don't "get it" tonight you don't stand a hope in hell of understanding anything in the next lecture, which means your notes will be terrible, which means you won't be able to catch up, which means you're screwed for the rest of the lecture course because every lecture builds on the one before it.

I think that's a big difference between science (and especially maths) and arts/humanities - science/maths is ruthlessly heirarchical - you have to understand all of the underlying concepts for anything to make any sense at all, and each of those underlying concepts has its own set of underlying concepts in turn.

Edit: question for the arts/humanities bods: I'm not sure whether there's anything equivalent to this, but maybe there is - were there any points in your lectures etc. where you would just totally lose the thread to the extent that your professor might as well be talking/writing in Venusian? I don't mean this in any pejorative sense - I get that arts/humanities are can be just as challenging as science/maths, I'm simply exploring the idea that they are challenging in different ways.
Last edited by Quercus on Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:52 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:02 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
doogly wrote:How on earth did the science folks get anything thinking done then?

They were not expected to? Most exact fields start off with several years of study where the students are only judged on their understanding of received knowledge. It tends to be fairly late that students are expected to contribute original ideas of themselves.

Ironically, this feeds into the superiority tales of the students: they boast how their courses are more difficult, with hard objective standards to pass. Unlike those talky fields where you can bluff your way through.

And man oh MAN does this bite people in the ass in graduate school.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Zamfir » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:40 pm UTC

AngrySquirrel wrote:Oh yea, another possibly contributing factor. Our class were required to take one so called "perspective"-class. Aka. ethics and philosophy. Which is the only class were we were forced to interact in any way with liberal arts, and that class was pretty much bullshit that you could easily bluff your way through without looking at the course material at all. If other schools had it similarly that might contribute to the notion that liberal arts are "easy" and not requiring much work.

I do know liberal arts programs, good ones, that a reasonably smart person could indeed bluff through from start to finish. If you do, you don't get out of that education what you could have gotten out of it.

People in exact fields have a tendency to equate the quality of an education with the difficulty to pass the tests. A minimalistic view of education: the goal of school is to pass the tests, so a good school is one with tests with high failure rates. I have seen this go badly wrong with certain teachers, who take the next logical step: you're a good teacher, if you ask really obscure questions on the exam. High failure rates? Means you're teaching a weed-out course, the best kind of course.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:05 pm UTC

I know a few teachers like that. One teacher flat-out said "A perfect assignment/test score is 80%. After that, it all comes down to how well I think you've mastered the material." I got a lot of 80's in that course, because no-one could quite figure out where the extra magical 20% came from. I got an 83% one time... it haunts me to this day.

But in general, my humanities courses were same credit value and same cost as my engineering courses, and were so much (what I would personally consider) easier. My business courses were same credit values and same cost as my engineering and humanities courses, and were so much (what I would personally consider) harder that it kind of blew my mind, because there was a crapload of hard data to memorize, but it was delivered in a format that completely defied easy memorization (pretty much just asking "What is the fifth word on page 88? You read the whole book, so you MUST know this answer.") It's nothing but annoyingly evasive language (no, I will NOT align my paradigms with the corporate mission statement, nor will I tell you how everyone else should) and multiple correct answers to each question (but, of course, he wants the one that's REALLY correct).

Engineering, hydrodynamics, area heating calcs, plumbing design, architectural history and theory, statics and strengths of wood, steel, and concrete? Straightforward. There is a correct answer, and one way to find it.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Quercus » Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:17 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:I have seen this go badly wrong with certain teachers, who take the next logical step: you're a good teacher, if you ask really obscure questions on the exam. High failure rates? Means you're teaching a weed-out course, the best kind of course.


That sounds, frankly, like a really bad checks-and-balances failure. At my uni there were multiple mechanisms that would prevent something like that from happening (I know a little bit about them, because I was a student representative for one of my modules, and part of my role was to represent the students' interests in how the exams were put together - bear in mind though that these are 5 year old recollections, so I may have got some details wrong).

  • Exam questions were moderated, for final year exams (i.e. the ones that are most important in determining the final class of your degree) this was done externally, by people from other UK universities, completely unaffiliated with the course in question.
  • Exams were marked on a curve, in order that a harder paper one year didn't mean that everyone got worse grades (hence why I scored halfway reasonably on one of my maths papers, despite not arriving at a single solution in three hours - that was reputed to have been the hardest paper set for that course in at least a decade).
  • There was an appeals procedure which could be initiated by any student if they felt the questions or the grade they achieved were unfair.

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:I know a few teachers like that. One teacher flat-out said "A perfect assignment/test score is 80%. After that, it all comes down to how well I think you've mastered the material." I got a lot of 80's in that course, because no-one could quite figure out where the extra magical 20% came from. I got an 83% one time... it haunts me to this day.

Again, who the hell is organizing these universities? I remember that under the regulations the assessment criteria for my courses had to be clearly laid out in full and available to all current and prospective students. Please tell me that you at least had anonymized assessment so it wasn't just simply "After that, it all comes down to how well I think you've mastered the material. much I like you"

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:40 pm UTC

There's objectively something to be said about students who go above and beyond. If the essay question was 'discuss the sociopolitical elements that lead to the rise of the Third Reich' and you list those elements, sure, that's the right answer. If your listing is organized, supported with specific examples, discusses their interplay, and references counter examples or such, that's the better answer. It's a 'show your work' kind of thing.

As someone who principally took science classes, I think the humanities gets a wholly undeserved rap for not being academically rigorous. I know speaking with many of my history, philosophy, or various arts friends, I learned a lot, was impressed with their critical thinking, and never felt like it was just 'bullshitting'.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:47 pm UTC

AngrySquirrel wrote:Oh yea, another possibly contributing factor. Our class were required to take one so called "perspective"-class. Aka. ethics and philosophy. Which is the only class were we were forced to interact in any way with liberal arts, and that class was pretty much bullshit that you could easily bluff your way through without looking at the course material at all. If other schools had it similarly that might contribute to the notion that liberal arts are "easy" and not requiring much work.


Pretty much. I grabbed Woman's Studies as a minor, simply because it involved basically zero work, and CS was a major with some degree of challenge to it. I figured an unimpressive minor would be worth the tradeoff for grade inflation.

Zamfir wrote:Ironically, this feeds into the superiority tales of the students: they boast how their courses are more difficult, with hard objective standards to pass. Unlike those talky fields where you can bluff your way through.


Eh, that's kind of the case though. Your first CS or EE class, you have to put in actual effort. Not sure where the effort starts in liberal arts classes, but I do know I qualified for multiple minors without hitting that level. Sociology, Poly Sci, and Woman's Studies. If that's your major, you no doubt have to do a bit more, but...if 90% of your degree is cake you can BS your way through, you don't really get a lot of credit for a few higher level classes requiring actual work. After all, higher level courses in STEM degrees tend to require quite a bit of work as well...

It just feels like you can faceroll your way to a passing grade far, far easier in some degrees than others. Yes, yes, the facerolling student isn't going to be as educated as others in his class. Meh. There's a similar curve in understanding in every field. But the bar starts much higher in some.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:52 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Pretty much. I grabbed Woman's Studies as a minor, simply because it involved basically zero work, and CS was a major with some degree of challenge to it. I figured an unimpressive minor would be worth the tradeoff for grade inflation.
FWIW, the difference in requirements for a Minor and a Major makes this comparison pretty useless. I minored in creative writing because I took four writing classes - I would hardly call myself a writer. 100 and 200 level courses may fulfill the requirement for a minor, but are hardly demonstrative of the depth and breadth of a field of study, as I'm sure you wouldn't give a lot of respect to someone whose biology/chemistry training stopped after the intro courses.

Tyndmyr wrote:Your first CS or EE class, you have to put in actual effort.
I coasted through two years of bio/chem work with a ~B average. I think your bias is showing here, and I'd be very curious to see you handle an upper level history, philosophy, sociology, or art course.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Zamfir » Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:57 pm UTC

I'd saybthat intro courses for CS and EE are great examples of subjects that do not require original thought from the students. Their goal is that the students master the material as it is, no critical reflection on the material expected.

Doesn't mean they are easy, quite the opposite. Original thought is hard to evaluate, understanding of fixed material is easier to evaluate. So these courses can implement strict passing criteria.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:03 pm UTC

Sure, but I think this is how introductory history, philosophy, sociology, etc, classes are taught. They're equipping students with the basics so they can address future problems from a solid foundation.

No one teaches an introductory philosophy class and asks on a final exam 'How does Anselms ontological argument make you feel? Discuss.'
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:06 pm UTC

Exam questions usually do ask you to evaluate the argument. Sure, you're pretty free to draw on criticisms already discussed in class, especially in an intro course. But you're still explaining why you find that criticism sound.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:11 pm UTC

I can't tell for certain which direction you're saying this works - are you saying exam questions for these classes are fully bullshittable, or that they require you reference the class material?
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Quercus » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:12 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:There's objectively something to be said about students who go above and beyond. If the essay question was 'discuss the sociopolitical elements that lead to the rise of the Third Reich' and you list those elements, sure, that's the right answer. If your listing is organized, supported with specific examples, discusses their interplay, and references counter examples or such, that's the better answer. It's a 'show your work' kind of thing.

I agree - going above and beyond is something that should be rewarded in both science and arts. My point was that it needs to be codified in some way, so that assessors can be held to account for it - otherwise some pretty nasty abuses of power are possible. The codification can be pretty broad - I remember some of the assessment criteria on my exams were things like "refers frequently to material beyond that covered in the lecture course" or, the stage above, "refers frequently to material beyond that covered in the listed further reading for the lecture course" and "presents a coherent and well argued synthesis of multiple lines of evidence". The point is that it's written down in advance so that an appeals process can point to it and say "under which of these criteria you wrote did you judge that student to be worthy of that grade, and are you able to effectively justify that they met/didn't meet those criteria?"

I for one am bloody glad that my university had those sort of checks in place. I ended up getting stuck in the middle of a long-running and bitter disagreement between two senior professors in my department, which resulted in one of them not really being on speaking terms with me afterwards. I still got a pretty decent grade from him, and I suspect that's because he knew I could pull him up in front of the appeals committee if I hadn't. I don't want to impugn his character - he may have just been decent enough to put personal issues aside, but the existance of a robust appeals procedure was certainly a comfort to me at the time (our exams were technically anonymized, but my handwriting is distinctive enough and our class was small enough that he would be able to tell which exam was mine easily).

As someone who principally took science classes, I think the humanities gets a wholly undeserved rap for not being academically rigorous. I know speaking with many of my history, philosophy, or various arts friends, I learned a lot, was impressed with their critical thinking, and never felt like it was just 'bullshitting'.

Word. Of any class I took in secondary (high) school history taught me the most about critical thinking and assessment of evidence, far more than sciences or maths.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby doogly » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:54 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:I'd saybthat intro courses for CS and EE are great examples of subjects that do not require original thought from the students. Their goal is that the students master the material as it is, no critical reflection on the material expected.

And that is why these same students wail and gnash their teeth in my intro physics class. Yes, every problem will be solvable with F=ma. No, they will not look anything like the problems in the review sheet, what would be the point of that?

I am realizing now I never took a college (university) level humanities intro course. I have no idea what these are like.

And Anselm's ontological argument makes me want to vom so hard.
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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby IceFlake » Tue Apr 21, 2015 4:11 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Eh, that's kind of the case though. Your first CS or EE class, you have to put in actual effort.

Absolutely not. During my liberal arts undergrad studies, my easiest classes were CS, math, and physical science classes I took either as core requirements or electives. They required almost zero preparation outside of class.

And hey, joke's on you! As a professional evaluator of admission applications, scholarship applications, and résumés, I'd be much more impressed by a CS degree with a women's studies minor than a minor in, say, math or physics.

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby Quercus » Tue Apr 21, 2015 4:22 pm UTC

doogly wrote:No, they will not look anything like the problems in the review sheet, what would be the point of that?

Spoilered for OT
Spoiler:
I once constructed a mock exam for an test I was taking by randomly combining questions that I hadn't already attempted from past papers. I tried this under exam conditions about a week before the real exam and then thoroughly went through it, looking up any bits that I was unsure about.

When I got into the actual exam and flicked through the questions I almost burst out laughing in the exam hall - clearly the question setters had the same strategy as me, and every single question on the paper was identical, except in order and minor numerical differences, to the mock exam I had set myself a week earlier. I did well on that exam :D

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Re: Why do people here and xkcd hate liberal arts maors so m

Postby studyinserendipity » Tue Apr 21, 2015 4:40 pm UTC

Quercus wrote:Edit: question for the arts/humanities bods: I'm not sure whether there's anything equivalent to this, but maybe there is - were there any points in your lectures etc. where you would just totally lose the thread to the extent that your professor might as well be talking/writing in Venusian? I don't mean this in any pejorative sense - I get that arts/humanities are can be just as challenging as science/maths, I'm simply exploring the idea that they are challenging in different ways.
I would say there were equivalencies. The hardest thing I found in music courses is you could know all the stuff and still not get a thing right. Like if you're composing and yes, that is a valid chord voicing, but it wasn't the best choice, or it would have better in a different instrument register, so you're getting points off. Or, you played all the right notes, but there wasn't a good feeling to them, you need to go a little slower - no, that's too slow - no that's too fast again. Here, listen to these 10 other interpretations, and come up with your own interpretation (that fits the style of the time period, doesn't take too many liberties with the tempo, etc.) Plus there was lots of stuff that you just had to listen to over and over again until you could hear a difference. 3 hours of class a week having a teacher play intervals and you guessing at them and hoping at some point the lightbulb goes on and you can tell which one was a 6th, or a 3rd, or a 4th, so when you're writing down songs played in 4-part harmony it's a little easier.

This is all from a music perspective because that's what I know, but I'm sure it applies to other creative arts as well. It's a different kind of frustration, not the "I don't understand what this professor is saying at all" but more "All this stuff is so basic, why can't I get it right/make it sound the way it does in my head?" It's actually the first thing I warn any adults that start up piano lessons - this thing will be frustrating in a way you may have never experienced before, and it's why so many adults who start piano quit.
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