Well rounded Geeks

The LA TIMES has a piece on humanities at Cal Tech. Yes, you read that right! This is a funny sample:

“The older students get used to it,” said David Armet, 20, a junior sitting at a campus cafe with senior Jay Carlton, 21. Both are mechanical engineering majors. Carlton, who was thumbing through a robotics text, said he felt sorry for the humanities professors his freshman year.

He recalled a poetry class in which the lecturer asked for examples of odes: “The answers we gave were ‘electrode’, ‘cathode’, ‘anode’ and ‘diode.’

I often get very frustrated when talking to non-science people about science, and was often shocked at how ignorant of other subjects some of my fellow science (mostly chemistry) majors were. In Who Killed Homer, Victor Davis Hanson suggests that humanities majors be required to take at least one year of Calculus as well as some laboratory science. Similarly, it might do some good for future scientists to read a little philosophy and history to understand the implications of the discoveries that they will be making in the future [1]. With college degrees being handed out to about 25% of young Americans, it seems to me that it is being somewhat cheapened. I know of people graduating with 2.2 GPAs and a political science degree-which is, to be honest, a big ass bar-tab. One thing I’ve been thinking-make all students double up majors and take something technical (science, math, pre-professional) as well as a liberal art or humanities (english, history, political science, art, etc.) and set a 5 year goal instead of 4 for graduating. A lot of kids would transfer to more explicitly pre-professional vocational training schools pretty quickly.

[1] I am no Luddite, I’ve always said that we have to ride the technological tiger or simply surrender and walk back into the past.

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