Campus Rant: Arts and Letters haters
Cornelius Rogers | Tuesday, October 13, 2009
For too long have I borne the insults. For too long have I had to withstand the discrimination based not on race or religion, but on my choice of college. Yes, I confess I am a student in the College of Arts and Letters. For years now I have endured so many clever nicknames, such as “Arts and Leisure,” “Arts and Crafts” or my favorite, “Arts and Farts and Crafts.”
Yes, we may not be as empirical as the College of Science, or as practical as the Engineers or Architects, or have as many cool athletes as the College of Business. However, we still have just as much to contribute to society as the rest of you, so listen up.
Now I’m not defending every single major and minor offered in the College of Arts and Letters, because frankly some of them are a little bit of a joke (one in particular that rhymes with Mender Muddies). I come before you to defend the liberal arts qua liberal arts. Qua means “in so far as,” for all you non-Peripatetics out there.
To the members of the Colleges of Science, Engineering, Architecture and Business, I submit to you the following Euclidean theorem: You need us and we need you.
To prove this, a reductio ad absurdium will be necessary. Let us assume the opposite – that these other colleges do not need Arts and Letters and that we do not need them. A scientist may stumble across an observation in a laboratory that seems to contradict his faith, but can find no argument from Thomas Aquinas on how to interpret Scripture. His faith is now devastated.
A businessman is unsure of whether a certain business practice is ethical or not. Without the aid of philosophers like John Stuart Mill or Kant, his business makes unethical decisions and loses all moral worth.
An engineer and an architect attempt to build a bridge across a river, but the bridge collapses. The engineer and architect are so enraged that they attempt to punish the river with lashes and hot irons, the folly of which could have been avoided if they had only read The Histories of Herodotus.
And lastly, the Arts and Letters majors would be out of jobs, which is absurd. Therefore, the other colleges need arts and letters, and vice versa.
Another complaint about an Arts and Letters degree is that is impractical. To those who ask, “what are you going to do with that?” I answer, “Whatever I want.” Arts and Letters majors have gone on to become lawyers, teachers and even doctors. It is not uncommon that students go on to seek professions in the fields of politics, public service and even in the business world.
To those whom I have offended or irritated, I make no apology. Rather, I challenge you to take up arms. Do not merely move on to read the humorless comic strips. Instead, get out your keyboard and engage me in a dialogue, either amiably or hostilely, so that we can learn from one another. The reason why the five colleges are together in one university is that we are all on the same train – the search for truth. So get on board.
There seems to be a lack of good Viewpoint letters lately. I demand the very best from you my peers, and even from the alumni. If you agree or disagree, then say something about it. I am not asking for any idiot with spare time and an inflated ego to write a sarcastic paragraph or two. I am asking for only the very sharpest writers and thinkers to fight back. The gauntlet has just been thrown down. Do you accept?
Contact Cornelius Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.