In Defence of the Arts Student

Yes I study a Bachelor of Arts; no I do not have to defend my life choices to you, or anyone that asks. At my university, it has become painfully clear that we Arts students are at the bottom of the university hierarchy (for those people that just couldn’t leave high school shit behind, *sigh*). Engineers in particular seem to hold this view, not all of them of course (because that would be prejudicial..hmm), as do many law students, medical students, and science students.

Now I’ve had the chance to be both a science and an arts student, and I liked arts so much better that I dropped the science half of my degree and reduced my science to just #14 units of whatever I want (physiology, plants and evolutionary biology, thanks), taken as electives. So I’ve done the “hard” subjects of science, and I won’t deny they were, but that doesn’t mean my arts subjects weren’t challenging, just that I connected with them more and thus found them easier. On Facebook a few months ago, someone posted that “Arts students should stop complaining about how hard they’re working, they have no idea what it’s like”. Um, well actually we do.

Psychology students have to read journals and studies constantly as part of their courses. Criminology students have to read journals (usually 20+ pages long, I’ve never seen a freaking criminologist edit!) in addition to textbook readings, and a minimum of 6 academic sources are required for an essay. English Literature students are constantly reading, not just in a passive way, but they read critically and the texts tend to be complex. In addition to this, they have to read accompanying texts on literature theory, so that they can explain what they have read in the frame of marxism, feminism or even psychoanalysis. Ancient History students taking an introductory subject on the rise of Ancient Rome have a total of 15 assessable items in their course profile, including two exams and a major essay. Classic Language students are learning Greek and Latin. 

As science student who has taken the two introductory biology courses, a total of one science journal was read throughout both courses. There were assessable practicals in the lab, quizzes, and final exams. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard; it was. But Arts subjects have their own challenges and demands, they’re not for the lazy or the bludgers (unless you want a Fail).

So I find it hard to comprehend why so many students think so little of Arts. My arts degree is in Literature and Criminology, which will allow me to teach English and Legal Studies, as well as Biology with my science units. I will earn a Master of Teaching to complete my qualifications. Now I think teaching is a pretty respectable profession, as worthy as engineering or medicine (hey, I decided medicine could go suck it because I wanted to teach; see my post On and In Defence of Medical TV Show Addiction for more). 

Here are some of the things I’ve heard people say when I tell them I’m doing Arts: 

Are you undecided?’ 

No, in fact I’ve never been so sure in my life about my degree and my career. Literature and criminology (and some psychology) were and picked as majors that would help me become a more competent teacher of my chosen subject areas. 

‘Did you get a bad OP?’

Btw, for those who don’t know what an OP is: it is Queensland’s university entrance score for graduating year 12s, it stands for ‘overall position’ with 1 being the highest and 25 being the lowest. Anything between 1 and 3 is considered pretty extraordinary, between 3 and 5 fantastic, and between 5 and 10 high. Interstate this is called an ATAR. The OP for entry into a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Queensland is 10. So some effort in high school at the very least was required.

No I did not get a bad OP, I am doing Arts because I want to. I could have done Law, or Physiotherapy or Engineering, but I didn’t want to (ugh, physics and math are not my friends). For perspective, I got an OP 2. Whatever, I got into the course I wanted. Seriously, no one cares about your OP after you get in. 

But you’re so smart’

Aw, shucks, aren’t you nice. Actually, wait no, that’s a little backhanded. People who do Arts are plenty smart. Economics, Mathematics, and Political Science are all Arts majors. Mathematics majors in Arts take the same subjects as those who take Mathematics majors in Science. Ditto for Psychology. People in Arts generally do very specific subjects because they very much enjoy them. They’re super smart. Especially those poly-sci majors; they can argue in big words all day. They’ll probably be candidates at the next election (or not…they are smart). 

So people, let’s lay off the Arts students. We chose our degrees just like everyone else and we’re pretty happy with them. We go on to be experts, academic, great authors, government advisors and so much more. Surely that measures up to societal standards? And if more engineers (not my engineering friends, you guys are nice) don’t start being nicer, just remember that I have the next generation in my hands. I’ll just teach your children that engineers should be made fun of. I really don’t want it to come to that…..

To my fellow Arts students, you guys are excellent in so many ways that by graduation, we’ll all be walking through the Great Court yelling: illegitimi non carborundum 

Peace, Love, Buffy

Dannielle 

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