Volume 94, Issue 42

Tuesday, November 14, 2000


Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Seriously? Maraj wrong, Butler right?

Re: Is a liberal Arts degree worth the cost? Nov 10.

To the Editor:

When I sat down to read the article entitled, "Is a liberal Arts degree worth the cost? Two Arts students duke it out..." printed in the Nov. 10 edition of The Gazette, I expected some interesting commentary. I enjoyed the article and the realistic outlook adopted by Colin Butler was refreshing.

Alas, I was less refreshed by the ignorance shown by Sean Maraj. Maraj unfortunately resorted to hearsay and prejudice when arguing his views. In the most incorrect and offensive passage, he states "That means communication. That means analyzing and properly interpreting all that information, that means liberal arts." He then goes on to blithely ask "...how many engineers out there really know how to write a solid proposal anyway?"

Perhaps Maraj should have done his homework instead of brushing up on his Plato. If he had checked, he would have found out that engineers actually take courses specifically dedicated to effective writing and communication. In these courses, we are taught how to write letters, proposals, reports and we are given practice in delivering information effectively to a wide variety of audiences. These courses are not taught by engineers, but by the faculty of engineering's "Artists in Residence." If engineering students can't write decent proposals, then they don't graduate – period.

Also, liberal arts students don't have a monopoly on the interpretation of information. One of the primary tasks of engineers and scientists is to collect and interpret data. Failure to do so correctly can lead to any number of unfortunate occurrences, such as airplane crashes and bridge collapses. In engineering, an incorrect analysis can mean death, not just criticism in academic circles.

Unfortunately, Mr. Maraj seems to consider science and engineering as being inherently inhuman subjects, as witnessed by his rather feeble "Dr. Beckett in 2566" argument. It saddens me that someone who is supposedly getting an education in an area as 'enlightened' as liberal arts still feels this way and insists on propagating the hurtful stereotype that engineering and science somehow seek to replace humanity with math.

That idea is simply wrong. Engineers have a code of honour and our primary task is to protect and enhance the public good. Perhaps someone should write Maraj a proposal outlining a project to increase his enlightenment just a little bit further.

Adam G. Rehorn
Masters of Engineering Science II
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Reader questions purpose of education

Re: Is a liberal Arts degree worth the cost?, Nov 10.

To the Editor:

What is the purpose of education?

Is it simply (as an Internet friend of mine thinks is the current case) to de-skill the population, so as to make them more qualified for the burger bars, call centres, service jobs and what have you, that is the future of "new" and "modern" global societies?

Can we afford to have teenagers counteracting the sacred mantras of large multi-national food chains by (gasp) thinking for themselves? Yet low-wage jobs in service industries are scarcely unique in their focus on scripted interaction. In our bottom-line oriented world, the same pattern is observed more and more frequently across the board, as the vast majority of entry-level (and even many promotion-level) positions carry an ever-increasing level of responsibility. While simultaneously decreasing the degree of allowed autonomy.

Are we looking at a future of McJobs where the major aim of education is not to promote autonomous thinking, but to make students employable at all costs within an increasingly narrow scripted niche?

Yet even in these positions, creative thinking is encouraged within a very narrow frame. Where autonomy does not balance responsibility, one learns very quickly the fine art of divesting that responsibility, or "passing the buck."

What is it that we actually acquire from our education? In what lies the investment of this massive educational mortgage so many of us will be paying back for years and years to come?

Is it simply the ability to absorb massive amounts of data, to be regurgitated almost verbatim at specified intervals (mid-terms, exams, essays) – and thus, to learn to absorb equally well the ways of smoothly blending into the current "maximized price-to-earnings" system that will extend onward from our university lives into the "real" world, the ways of fitting in, of learning the ropes, of not making waves; preferably without once actually thinking about what is being memorized?

There are many factors which are easily obscured by the bottom line. Innovation and original thinking in particular have a terrible short-term price-to-earnings ratio – certainly not within that shortest of periods, one election term: Be it student, or university senate, or national.

"Heart" in particular is challenged. The cold equations of the bottom line hold no space for those who wonder whether there might be an alternative to the worship of the dollar. Is it to be hoped that thinking amongst ordinary students can be phased out in a few generations and then everything will run much more smoothly?

Carlyn Shore
Special Student

Better than engineers?

Re: Is a liberal Arts degree worth the cost, Nov. 10.

To the Editor:

I would like to personally thank Colin Butler for allowing my roommate, the engineer to make fun of me, the arts student, for the last few days. I read the opinion column and agree with certain aspects.

It definitely is harder for arts graduates to find work than it is for engineers and it does often seem that an arts degree is worthless. But I am writing to Butler to mention a few things that make arts students better than engineers.

First, when an engineer drinks too much (occurs on a daily basis) it is due to alcoholism, but when an Arts student has a few too many it is merely because he/she is a tortured artist (myself, I am a very, very tortured artist).

Next, engineers do find work easier, but my Christmas vacation starts on the 9th of December. Engineers are going to be here nearly two weeks later. That may not be a brilliant argument for studying the arts, but I just wanted to let all the engineers know that while they're studying physics and calculus, I'll be in my recliner watching soap operas and Jenny Jones.

Last, it is scientifically proven that arts majors are better looking than engineers. And when I say scientifically, I mean I just made it up, but I took science in grade 11 and I feel that gives me the right to claim scientific proof.

So I'm glad I could get that off my chest and I hope the engineers don't take this too harshly, because I'm probably going to have to ask them for a job in a few years. I can wash windows.

Ian Yates
Arts I

Western honours veterans

To the Editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the university community for the efforts that have been made to properly honour our veterans. It is very heartening to see the change in attitude that has been pervading the campus in these past few years.

For the past several weeks, it seemed that everyone was wearing a poppy. More importantly, people were talking about how our grandfather's and great grandfather's unparalleled sacrifices have impacted them. It was especially heartening to see many of my classmates at the Cenotaph on Saturday morning.

With fewer and fewer of our veterans left alive, participation in Remembrance Day is more important than ever. It is impossible to imagine the horrors they went through for our benefit. That we are able to enjoy all of the many fruits of freedom, is due only to the fact that so many young men marched knowingly and unflinchingly to their deaths.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots."

Our nation generously gave two of its generations last century, in order to defend the world from what Churchill called "A monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and laminable catalog of human crime."

We all owe a debt to our glorious dead. We all have a sacred covenant. This is a debt which we can never fully repay. Our only hope is to stay current in the payment of interest. This we do by living our lives with truth and honour as our guides. We must uphold the ideals which they stood for and which they died for. We must stand up to tyranny and aggression in all of its many forms, wherever it may be. And above all else we must remember. N'oublions jamais. Lest We Forget.

Geoffrey Pollock
2nd Lieutenant,
22 Service Battalion

Polo guy clears things up

Re: Nets delay waterpolo match, Nov 8.

To the Editor:

First of all I would like to thank The Gazette for covering some of our waterpolo games. We, the waterpolo players, appreciate any coverage we can get. But I would like to clear up a little piece of information that appeared in The Gazette on Wednesday Nov. 8.

We (waterpolo players) didn't forget the nets at the Thames Pool. We were told by the University Community Centre staff that they had received new nets. Since we don't train, or play at UCC we thought the nets were fine.

But when we appeared at the UCC pool, it was discovered that the nets needed holes in the side of the pool to work. At first, we thought we could use the old nets, but the UCC staff had thrown them away a couple of months ago when they had received the new ones.

So a couple of the waterpolo players had to go to the London Aquatic Center, (15 minutes before the game) and pick up the nets.

Anyway, just wanted to clear that up. Didn't really appreciate The Gazette making us (water polo players) look stupid. When we had nothing to do with it!

Thanks for the coverage. As a side note, we have a game against MacMaster on Tuesday Nov. 14 and we would love some more coverage.

Michael Tomlin
Honours History IV

Challenge for smokers

To the Editor:

I have but one question to pose to the students of this school: How can so many of you smoke?

How can you not realize that if you continue to smoke, it is guaranteed to either kill you directly, or contribute significantly to major health problems later in life? Why is it that you lack the ability to peer only a matter of years into the future and make the connection between your actions and ill effects later on?

What does this extreme shortsightedness stem from?

I once heard a smoker say that he found it terrible to see a pregnant woman smoking because, "it's fine for them to wreck their own lives, but they shouldn't be wrecking someone else's as well." How sad is it that this person who smokes regularly is clearly aware that smoking will wreck his life and yet he still chooses to do it.

This total apathy toward such a grave issue is truly staggering.

My ultimate purpose here is to issue a challenge to anyone in the smoking community who is reading: I sincerely want someone to write a letter to the editor justifying why you believe smoking is a worthwhile activity and why you enjoy throwing your money and ultimately your life away.

Furthermore, if you cannot produce such an argument, I suggest you change your life for the better by quitting.

Patrick Masterson
Science I

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