The Humanities …Not So Easy, Afterall

It’s fashionable these days to hate on the humanities – either because the classes supposedly lack rigor or the degree pays poorly, compared to STEM. They are right about the later; a STEM degree does indeed pay more, but that doesn’t necessarily mean STEM is harder than the humanities. A freshman composition class still goes down as the hardest class I ever took. After the first graded assignments had been handed back, the professor pulled me aside and told me to rewrite the whole essay to avoid failing the assignment – that’s how bad my paper was despite getting good grades in composition classes in junior and high school. I spent probably eight full hours over the weekend getting that essay to a ‘B+’. The calculus class, however, was a breeze. People say you can bullshit your way though the humanities or you can pay someone to do your essays, but that only works, I suppose, if the teacher is either too lazy or too incompetent to detect ghostwritten work, and my teacher was neither of those. Quality persuasive writing is quite difficult because it involves the synthesis of the rules of grammar, content, and style – whereas in STEM the only thing that matters is getting the correct answer, not how aesthetically pleasing the answer is. Grammar is hard because a sentence may sound correct when you play it in your head but not be grammatically correct when you write it down, whereas in coding if something is wrong (using a semi colon instead of a comma, for example) the program simply won’t render correctly, and you will know there is an error; the grammatical mistake, on the other hand, is visible for the world to see, and you will be oblivious until someone points it out for you. For example, let’s consider these two sentences:

I wish I were home.

I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener.

They are both wrong; here’s why. Quite subtle, huh?

Or to quote Oscar Wilde — ‘I’m exhausted. I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out’