As my daughter begins yet another year of university, we find ourselves once again having the same conversation at the dinner table. It’s just loud enough to be more than a regular discussion. See, this can be a very sensitive subject, and it always comes down to who is better – read: smarter – art students or science students?
Yes, we are a family divided. Three of us are more on the “art” side – theatre/dance/fine art; then we have one “business” person, and finally, the good doctor.
For the purposes of this post, I will lump the “business” person and the doctor into one “show me the numbers or the scientific evidence” group. They are more alike than they are different, and definitely more different than the rest of us.
So there we were having dinner, and my daughter was telling us about the requirements for a few of her courses… “It’s just the regular…read, read, read, write something, read, read, read, write some more. And I love it when the prof actually specifies that we should be spending fifteen to twenty hours per week on this class. As if,” she snorted.
“What?” exclaimed my husband. “You need to make an effort. I’m not paying good money to educate you for nothing. When I was in school, if I skipped class or didn’t do my readings, I failed.”
“Yeah, well your school was different. Your school was science. Now, you slice people open for a living. I HOPE you were paying attention,” my daughter replied snarkily.
“Why should school for you be any different?” my husband asked. It was a valid question.
Now, I know my daughter. She is the kind of person – as she has always proclaimed (since she could first talk) – that you “DON’T tell her what to do”. Not if you are her friend, or her boyfriend, or her boss, or her mother, or her father, and certainly not, if you are her professor, like who does he think he is? Screw the standards the university has set forth to be able to assess if someone should get a degree. Screw rules in general.
Ah, but such is the angst, the passion, the tempermentality, the effusivity, the histrionically of an “art” student. (Half of those aren’t even real words, I know, but as one of that kind, I dare to make stuff up.) If I really think about it, the difference between “art” students and “science” students is a little like the difference between cats and dogs. You can read more about that here.
Anyhow, for my daughter, if you tell her what to do – like if you say “don’t make such a mess in the kitchen” or “don’t get too drunk when you go out tonight” – she’s likely to do the exact opposite. Yes, if someone tries to impart their desires on her oh-so-delicate psyche, it’s as if they are stabbing her in the face with a twenty-pronged fork, and she WILL – by virtue of her nature – fight back. Hence the reason for the “I’m not going to read and write about this Greek philosophy shit for twenty hours per week” kind of response.
Now, don’t get me wrong. She is very smart. And she does want to learn. She just doesn’t like being told to do it. As I mentioned earlier by using such amazing descriptors as “histrionically”, she is not a fan of social convention, but then who am I to criticize? Neither am I. When I was sixteen, I had a mohawk hair cut, and I wore men’s boxer shorts to school – when it was warm enough, obviously. OK, so I never had any dates back then, but at least, I didn’t end up with gonorrhea at the age of sixteen.
No, you tell my daughter to read a book and she won’t. Conversely, if you don’t say anything, you’ll probably find twenty books in her room on the exact same subject you were trying to get her to learn about in the first place. As her mother – the person who knows her best – I know her tricks. Her father, not so much.
So at dinner, the science guy – the “I take everything at face value”, the “if someone says it, then it MUST happen that way” other half of our married partnership, continued, “What are you going to be, a university drop-out?” Like that statement was going to help. Like that statement would do anything other than get her all riled up. And believe me, you don’t want an “art” student to get all “riled up”, unless you want to experience tears, tantrums, and emotionally damaging accusations as a result. Just FYI, “art” students are typically pretty good with words – and those “emotionally damaging accusations” can really cut deep.
Seriously, it strikes me as odd that Mr. Logical can’t see trends in his own daughter’s behaviour, like why can’t he look at her track record and see that she will NOT be doomed to a life working as a dishwasher, scraping gross half-eaten burgers and mashed up Coke and fries off of plates in the back of some greasy truck stop at the edge of the city, whistling “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey over and over again because ironically, it’s her favourite song, but also a painful reminder that she could’ve actually amounted to something if she’d just tried a little harder.
He thinks that she’s about to flunk out of university, yet she managed to get through fifteen years of six to seven days a week of dance classes and competitions, all the while maintaining an “A” average throughout school. No goddammit, she MUST be a quitter.
Ahhh, but I know better. The “art” student in me recognizes the “art” student in her…
I can see past the language. I can see into her soul; I can hear the tone in her voice, and I know it’s more her being a proud “I can make my own decisions thank you very much” attitude, rather than her actually wanting to fuck up at school.
They say third children are stubborn, headstrong, and that they question authority. If you are describing anyone here, you are describing my daughter. I KNOW she will be fine at school. Why? Because she always has been. Oh, she may complain and say that she absolutely refuses to do stuff, but year after year, she has persisted – always at the top of her class. Well, there was that ONE instance (a small falter) in grade twelve when she said that “thing” to the principal, but hey, school administrators don’t get paid the big bucks for nothing, right? Besides, it has given her a bit of an edge. You don’t want to be too perfect.
Anyway, back to the story…
So my husband makes the statement about her possibly being a university dropout, and my daughter shoots back, “What if I am? I don’t need university – or teachers – to make me smart. I’m self-directed, super efficient, AND I have emotional intelligence. I am in touch with feelings – mine, yours, everybody’s. And unlike you science students, I know what to say and what NOT to say because it could hurt someone’s feelings – like you are going to end up university dropout.”
Ouch. She had him there.
“You think science students are so great because they actually study? Well, we study, but we are smart about it. We study just enough to get good grades and then we spend the rest of the time thinking, dreaming, creating, and figuring out how to connect people more deeply to this planet and to society at large, in essence, creating a new world order that goes above and beyond the physical, the concrete, the ‘wow, how cool are these Bunsen burner’ machines.”
Now you know my husband wasn’t going to let the conversation end there – he’s a science guy AND a man, after all – but she’d certainly knocked him down a few notches. “We don’t just like Bunsen burners,” he added feebly. “We like rockets, 3-D printouts, and microbial landscapes…” He was grasping at straws. “Also, I don’t want you to think that I’m suggesting…well, it’s not that I ummm…just never mind…” My husband looked down at his computer. “Do me one favour? Try to get higher than a D…”
“Yeah, well you are a science person. You WOULD worry about that. The world is going to shit. There are more important issues to consider besides my one little mark.”
With regard to NOT spending fifteen to twenty hours on this course, in my daughter’s defence, I will say that any good art student has the uncanny ability of waving a hand over a text – almost like waving a magic wand – or flipping through the pages just slow enough to read the first and last line in every other paragraph to get the basic concepts. Maybe it’s because we read and write so bloody much. You get good at the things you practice, you know – the same way SOME people can skillfully extract fruit flies from a petri dish and cross-trans-mutate them into the bio-vernal equinox of the cellular hydro-spenosis thingamajig.
Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever read one text book cover-to-cover except the one entitled The Existence of God. I read and reread that damn torture device until my brain almost exploded.
Now, if there’s one good thing that came out of this conversation between my husband and my daughter, it’s the fact that her brothers were otherwise occupied. This whole debate could’ve erupted into something a whole lot messier if they’d been paying attention.
On a final note – and this is how we (as a family) come to a “we are ALL worthy individuals” conclusion – my husband likes to say, “Science people keep the world alive.” And I like to add, “And art people make life worth living.” And that’s the way we leave it, lest someone’s iPhone gets flung against a wall.