Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Liberal Arts & Engineering

As my profile will tell you, I'm a geek of all trades. More importantly, I'm an engineer by training. I've got degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Now, my wife, on the other hand has her degree in English. So, in college to impress her (and try to find ways of competing on level ground during arguments with her, which has failed) I took 4 English classes during my Junior and Senior years:
  • Shakespeare - actually because I love it, not her
  • Romantic Literature - not Harlequin, the other romantic
  • Argumentation - trying and failing to win against her
  • Fiction Writing - just for fun
As I've hinted, Argumentation wasn't my strongest class. I didn't do poorly. It's just that I tend to come at things from a different point of view than is typical in the school of liberal arts. That, and I'm bad at pushing my point of view, unless it's something very technical that I can build a straight forward, logical proof to argue with. Never the less, I ended up with a very satisfactory B in the class. Almost entirely because of my paper discussing the crucial part that computer science should play in every liberal arts education.

Sounds ridiculous, perhaps. But what I was able to show through the paper was that (a) by definition a liberal arts education is intended to broaden one's perspective on the world and our place within it, and that (b) the analytical methods that are critical to understanding the themes in computer science are fundamentally new and not being taught in any other curriculum that is already part of most liberal arts programs. I won't bore you with the details, but the professor was duly impressed with the argument I put forth, convincing her that, indeed, the analytical skills taught by computer science are not typically available elsewhere, and yet do provide insight into questions that are posed by a liberal arts eduction.

So, watch what you say about your friendly neighborhood geek. Despite the sterotypes you might hold, true geeks are deeper than you think.

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