Studying Humanities Is As Hard As Science, Then Why The Bias?

Posted by Yogender Ahlawat in Education, Society
September 14, 2017

“Beta tum toh ache student ho, fir arts kyu le rhe ho (You are a very good student. So, why are you taking up humanities?)”
“Arts field me koi career nahi hai (There is no career option in the arts field)”
“ Ache students ke liye science stream hi sahi hai (Good students take up science)”
“ Mann lagakar padhai karo, wrna arts lena pdega (Study hard or you’ll need to take up humanities)”
“Itne ache number lane par agar arts loge toh log kya kahenge? (What will people say if you take up arts, despite scoring so well)?”

These are not famous quotes from the yellow pages of wise philosophers, but they are very profoundly quoted by those who claim to be so. It is a given that if a student is bright, they must study science. If the student is weak, the humanities stream would serve them best. If the bright student is a girl, she will have to deal with biology and if that bright student happens to be a boy, he cannot insult his intelligence. Thus, he must not take up anything else besides technology and engineering These are not my words, but the common understanding of the society in general or rather should I say, the stereotypes attached to the division of subjects where the interest of student does not matter, the ambition of students has to be monetary profits and the aptitude required for a particular subject is all about higher marks.

And if somehow neglecting (this is not quite possible), accepting or confronting these labels, a student sticks to their guns and studies humanities, they are always reminded of their apparent inferior position. Their dignity is often attacked because of their own choices of subjects, or rather, what enrages me is the whole perception on which these nonsense notions are made. How can two subjects be compared when the entire method of approaching them is different? Why is your choice of a subject used to judge your intelligence quotient, instead of showcasing your interest and aptitude?

In India, it’s a common belief that pursuing humanities limits careers options and is not monetarily beneficial. And if this is true in the current scenario, why should they pursue a passion for classics even if it might not guarantee returns in the job market? After all, one does not want to be doing what they love and be homeless!

India has numerous languages, a rich historical, ethnic and cultural background, so there are opportunities for various courses in humanities to Indians as well as foreign students. But this is not happening as the subject is not being encouraged the way it needs to be. Every day we come to know about new IITs, IIMs and AIIMSs being founded but how many of us actually know about the best humanities institutes in India? It seems that even the government is oblivious to the importance of studying humanities and so it promotes only science and technology related subjects.

Through humanities, we learn how to think creatively and critically, to reason, and to ask questions. In science, mathematics and engineering classes, one is given facts, answers, knowledge, and truth. The professors say,“This is how things are.” They give you certainty. Studying humanities gives you uncertainty, doubt and scepticism. The humanities stream is subversive. It undermines and questions authorities whether political, religious or scientific. It provides you multiple lenses to see the world through.

Humanities makes you question absolutely anything, even science. I’m not saying that science is less important or that humanities is more constructive. But I am arguing against the mindset that categorizes humanities (or any subject for that matter) as easy. If calculating electromagnetic induction is strenuous, then researching on the complexity of social relationships is also no cakewalk. But many students realize this baseless ground of differentiation so late in their lives that they end up dwindling in science classes even if they had skill and ability for music, sports, arts or anything non-technical

The problem lies in the way we view education. We do not look at subjects from a perspective of gaining knowledge. Rather, we look at them as a stock market where we invest our credentials to earn profits. But at the same time, we fail to realise that the market is changing every day. If ratings are to be done, the scales of measurement could reverse anytime soon. But I’m not hoping nor do I want humanities to become superior (that would be flawed again) but all but all the subjects to be respected for what they have to offer and honor the education altogether.


Picture Credit: Robert Neubecker

 

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