Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The science of art? The art of science?

It’s difficult to compress five opinions into a couple of hundred words, more so when those opinions come from some of the most accomplished minds in our generation. No, I’m not talking about Emma
Watson (I’ve recently realised that people really, really like her and all these face book jokes/meme revolve around her...yikes). What I am actually referring to are the opinions of our students here at UTSC. Our school environment at the least encourages a funny but belligerent sort of competition between the arts and the sciences. With the faculty of science greatly superseding that of the arts (in sheer numbers, if nothing else), it’s not difficult to figure out what sort of academic environment is prevalent at UTSC, and U of T in general (did I mention that I’m definitely not on board the psychology-is-a-science express? #sorry #myapologies #hashtag #hashtag ).

So I actually sat a few people down (well, five to be exact...I JUST realized they were all women..woohoo!), and asked them to allow me to pick their brains a little bit, let me in on the great secret. Turns out there isn’t one, UTSC is a conflicted place when it comes to what people think about programs and major choices, but there are a lot of those who believe this ongoing Art vs. Science pseudo-war needs to come to an end. Some are apathetic. It’s not that ignorance is bliss; just that ignorance saves many of us the trouble of getting into ridiculously irrelevant arguments.

Beth Jarrell, a second-year student in the Joint-Centennial Journalism Program said, “My friends all belong to such a diverse range of majors. Of both my closest friends, one is an IDS major and the other a Math specialist. I would be lying if I said that it hasn’t greatly affected their personalities and in turn, our friendship. I can talk about Canadian politics or Canadian History for hours and come out on top of any argument, but all the while, I am painfully aware of the fact that I can’t code or solve a differential equation to save my life. It’s a feeling of inadequacy that is ingrained within us. I’m sure my ‘scientist’ friend’s freak out a little every time they need to write an actual paper for one of their biology classes or whatever”.

Marwa Sheikh, second year with an undeclared major, was particularly frustrated with the subject matter. “It’s an extremely annoying atmosphere of competition, because it really shapes students’ decision making processes in the worst possible way. I was an all-science sort of kid in high school, Physics and chemistry all the way. Yet, I’ve been taking a bunch of political science and media studies courses at UTSC. Regardless of how much I enjoy or learn from my classes, I feel the need to constantly remind myself and others that I have transfer credits for science courses. I’m originally a science geek or something like that. Why must we swing one way or the other? Why do we have to anyway? I can fulfill my breadth requirements and be happy with who I actually am. It greatly annoys me that Science students call us the ‘artsy kids’, all those joke about handing us a paint brush to shut us up or something. Whilst they think solving a differential equation is the be all and end all of humanity. The worst part is, I WAS one of them. It makes me come out of all this feeling extremely conflicted, we’re into mid-March and I have yet to decide upon a major. I’m afraid of how much these stigmas will play into my ultimate decision."

Some were even more honest and graphic in their statements. Jess Manley is a third-year French major, but she is minoring in Math and was previously a Math specialist. She said, “I feel like I’ve been on each end of the spectrum, and the only thing that’s changed about me is my level of comfort with my homework. I liked Math, I did well on some particularly difficult courses, but I was never happy doing it. French comes so much more naturally to me; I get along more easily with my professors and to be frank, it takes a LOT LESS to get a better grade. I was once having a conversation about a science journal with a friend, and all she had to say was that she didn’t really understand what she was talking about because she is an ‘arts’ major and all she knows how to do is finger painting."

These people might not have their irritations soothed anytime soon. Joanna Yuen, a fourth-year Biochemistry major from Hong Kong, is very blunt about the fact that she chose a program she hates, does assignments she can’t stand, and accepts grade she otherwise wouldn’t because it all comes with the validation of having a BSc. “I wouldn’t have come all the way to Ontario to major in the humanities. I don’t think there are a bunch of jobs in the field of bio-chem, but of course I sleep easier knowing I’m a science major. I just don’t respect the other fields. I wish I did, but I don’t and that’s all there is to it." It’s safe to say that Jess Manley would disagree, “We all have our own strengths. You may be good with labs and numbers, but I am better with grammar and language. What’s the question here anyway?”

Pulse’s very own Zarish Asif will round up this mini-rant of ours. “I’m technically in the arts community, but coming from the inside has shown me how glaring the misconceptions in the field are. Some of my favorite artists come from science backgrounds and vice versa. These are not two mutually exclusive entities, but are seeded off of the polarization that society develops in favor of keeping these disparities alive. Life is more interesting with the science geeks and artsy hippies are facing it off.  No one knows if anyone will ever win."
Before I shut up until next week, I am more conflicted-but-compassionate than ever. What is the science of art? Or is science an art?

S’long....? Till later...?


  1. So worth the wait! Loved reading the different things students had to say! Variety is the spice of life and well done Maha for putting it out there in such a relatable and interesting form!
    Very well written and funny as always :)Can't wait for the finale next week!

  2. Love this!! Looking forward to next week's blog!

  3. Omg Maha can I just be the father of your children!?

  4. Hahaha, you definitely shouldn't want to do that to yourself...or your children.
    Thank you for your comments and attention! I'm glad to see people respond to this on a certain level.


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