‘Bird’ bashing

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Right-brained people can help”
Jan. 16, 2007

To the Editor:
During my undergrad, I took one of the “bird” essay courses your editorial mentioned, purely out of interest in the topic. I found it a waste of a half-credit: oversimplified and unimaginative, a study of literature awkwardly forced into a science-based structure. Multiple-choice tests on the literature turned a chance to prove one’s knowledge into an arbitrary trivia game. Bland, unimaginative essay topics left no scope for following one’s passion and seemed to punish individual thinking. We were forbidden to consult outside sources in our work, a rule that discouraged students from investigating topics of interest in greater depth.

This unfortunate course could have (and should have) been an enchanting introduction to a new field of study for many students who might not have otherwise considered arts and humanities courses. Instead, it was the kind of drudgery that only reinforced low opinions and stereotypes of what subjects within the arts are really about. Non-arts students in the class went uninspired, and the arts students present felt their wings had been clipped by the low performance expectations that informed every class policy.

To force an arts course into the kind of structure a science student would find familiar fails to do the subject matter justice. Worse, it underestimates non-arts students’ ability to rise to a challenge and become well-rounded professionals.

Instead of basing courses popular with non-arts students on dismally low expectations, instead of just pushing them through their arts requirement in a rush to get them back to courses that really matter, why not give them a chance to actually learn something? It’s the only way to truly introduce the different ways of thinking businesses value, and who knows? Maybe these science and business students can offer the field much more than the programs’ designers give them credit for.
"Sara Johnson
Master’s candidate, MLIS

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