Arts & Humanities: Don't Leave College Without Them

current academic model that I have outlined above, particularly from a humanities point of view. Required ‘general humanities’ subjects, perhaps equivalent to Open Learning Environment units here at The Universi - ty of Sydney, are often seen as irrelevant classes that must be ‘gotten through’ to meet course requirements. USYD’s strategic plan outlines graduate outcomes such as “Broader skills: critical thinking and problem solving” and “cultural competence” – qualities deemed to be transferable skills that are often attached to Arts degrees. Droge argues that there is far more to the humanities than these generic qualities, and that the power lies within the way we can weave vastly different disciplines together. For its first foray into the classroom, WE1S launched the class ‘Reading with Scientists’ in Fall 2018, which delved into the idea of teaching literature in non-literary settings and vice versa. Class activities included ‘translating’ and ‘exporting’ texts, taking on the notion that words of a specific genre and form can be adapt - ed to an unintended audience with impressive effect. This was done through a close study of MIT Press’ 2017 edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which was ‘Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds’ (edited by Guston, Finn, and Robert). Students of both science and humanities backgrounds were then challenged with the task of completing a ‘reverse annotation’, where a scientific text such as

a textbook was to be annotated with refer- ence to Frankenstein. Droge, the teacher of the class, observed that: ‘some saw a supportive relationship between the textbooks and Frank- enstein, with each providing notes of caution around scientific process. Others held Victor Frankenstein up to the standards of responsi- bility which the textbooks laid out for twenty- first-century scientists.’ Such a task has more powerful implications for the humanities than one might expect. By com- pleting the annotations, students engaged in a translation process of sorts, enabling an unin- tended audience to glean insights from a world they may be vastly unfamiliar with. Discussions based on these ideas serve as advocacy for the vital role that the humanities play in the sci- ences. Later in the semester, a comparison of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Vic- tor Frankenstein revealed numerous insights about figures who create a technology that in some way gets beyond their control. Mean- while, H.G. Wells’ novella The Time Machine (1895) was studied alongside the website of Stanford University’s “Emmett Interdiscipli - nary Program in Environment and Resources”, which develops approaches in thought around environmental issues. This pairing of a literary text with a scientific one provided a unique lens for study and discussion around climate change.

Inevitably, a number of issues still exist with this teaching model and these are acknowledged by Droge in her reflections. A number of questions arise – does this method serve to widen the gap between industry fields rather than close them? By making adjustments to a text in order to make it ‘readable’ for another group, is this simply cre- ating a more prominent division? How can litera- ture be used in such a way that it brings people from different occupations together rather than emphasizing their differences? In order for people of the humanities and scienc- es to walk hand in hand, they must first be united in mindset. A change of attitude from fixedness to openness – in mind and in dialogue. There must be a call for honesty, a decision to agree to disa- gree at times and above all, mutual respect for both disciplines. Essentially, there is a need for societal change. A process that begins with small conversations and grows through action and ad- vocacy. Yet, the barriers to this are numerous. Just this morning I read a reflective piece from a recent Eureka Prize winner. (The Eureka Prize is like an Australian equivalent of The Oscars, but for scien- tists.) In it, he mused over the mixed winnings for someone in his position. The prize was received gratefully (and even with some surprise – despite it being undoubtedly deserved), yet the implica- tions of his award were conflicting. Some told him


Arts & Humanities

Don’t Leave College Without Them


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