C/O Tony Sebastian, Unsplash
While we may perceive ourselves as worlds away, we’re much closer than we think
Let’s set this story during Welcome Week of 2019. Surrounded by other 2023s, I ventured into the thick swarm of students on the field outside Burke Science Building. Before I could take a breath, I was asked a question that all of us had heard countless times during that week.
“What program are you in? Like, are you a science kid or an English kid?”
I’d answer with “science kid” and move on with my life. No big deal, right? Well, not exactly. As I went through two more years of university, I discovered there was a greater divide in the sciences and humanities than I had first realized. Science kids were the kind that would rather solve complex chemistry problems than go near an essay. Humanities kids could write 20-page essays but god forbid they took a physics class.
As far from the truth as these generalizations may be, they do exist and they do persist. The general public’s perception of students who pursue science and students who pursue the humanities are closer to these reductive statements than we may think.
This issue has been discussed at length, not only by students like us, but also by renowned professors across the world. In 2018, the University of King’s College in Halifax held a roundtable discussion on this exact topic. These scholars, particularly Evelyn Fox Keller, talked about the territorial criticism they felt as an expert in history, physics and biology. The roundtable came to the conclusion that the sciences and humanities are often presented with the same problems, such as climate change, but rarely work together to solve them.
Not only does this divide affect worldly problems, but it also affects us all on a smaller scale of interests and extracurricular activities. Why are only science students expected to take on research positions? This rush to get involved in research activities is a constant discussion in the echo chamber of undergraduate science students, often with no mention of research efforts in the social sciences and humanities.
With such a binary in expected extracurriculars, this frame of thinking has also found its way into job interviews. Mahnoor Malik, a third-year health sciences student, reflected on her experience of this phenomenon.
“I was in an interview, hoping to get a position writing for this website I’m really fond of. The interview was going great, but they did comment on how my writing experience was largely scientific. I understand where they were coming from, but it was also shocking to see how my scientific writing experience wasn’t valued as much as other writing experiences were,” explained Malik.
This experience isn’t unique to one individual. The separation between these two fields has led to a lack of understanding of each other from both sides. By allowing this distance to exist, we inevitably divide ourselves into different social and professional groups.
We allow these preconceived notions to affect our judgement of each other. From a STEM perspective especially, we’re all somewhat guilty of assuming that non-STEM programs have fewer career opportunities. However, graduates of social sciences programs not only have similar employment rates to STEM graduates, but are also valued by employers for their critical thinking, emotional intelligence and ethical reasoning.
On a personal level, I have had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember. However, I assumed that once I chose my path of health sciences, writing could be nothing more than a hobby. My label was now to be science and science alone.
Imagine my surprise when I joined the Silhouette and found just as many science kids as humanities kids as arts kids on our staff. In a short couple of months, this team has opened my eyes to the fact that these insurmountable obstacles that we created are largely imaginative.
As students, we need to take it upon ourselves to throw this arbitrary barrier to the wind. By doing so, we gain the chance to learn more about ourselves, each other, and the plethora of opportunities available to not just X or Y students, but to all of us.