I will say having being through the collegiate meat grinder I was always a little upset that I had to pay all this extra money for classes I though weren’t important for my major (film video studies, world dance, English classes, etc.). I did not have an appreciation for these classes at the time. I think Dan Edelstein’s piece really sums up the difference between humanities and the “hard” sciences. Engineers are taught a baseline knowledge initially where there is typically one answer or a minimum answer at least, while the humanities use more original thinking and have a bunch of creative answers. The originality is what gets you a good grade as opposed to engineering, where deviating from the norm is shunned. I think even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time taking humanities courses engaged the other side of my brain and made me a better critical thinker. Young engineers I will tell you a secret, once you get to design there is no one correct answer there are a ton. I am grateful for this different way of thinking and being able to come up with an array of answers to the problem at hand. As a final note now as I am approaching the end of my “formal education” I want to take more courses outside my major, like drawing and foreign language courses. I am glad we have the system setup the way it is and I will be a big proponent of taking as many courses outside your major as possible. I really do believe it makes you a well-rounded student.
I think the following from Dan Edelstein really sums up his piece nicely: “it is not that humanities disciplines are more innovative than their scientific counterparts: it is simply that students are required to practice innovative thinking earlier on in their studies. Though there is a great difference in outcome between, say, a close reading of Balzac’s Père Goriot and the development of a new software operating system, both rely on similar cognitive processes.”