Liberal arts a vital educational resource

Probably one of the happiest moments of my life was realizing that I had to take less than a handful of humanities classes at Tech.
Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that I dislike English literature or learning more about the socioeconomic impacts of the Louisiana Purchase in France. I would genuinely love to spend the time, in an ideal world where I would have an unlimited amount of it, gorging myself with knowledge about Impressionist ideals, Freudian philosophy and Kafka’s existential works. It’s just that, with the limited time I do have, I find the conceptual framework and inherent application from my engineering, physics and chemistry courses far more interesting.
Couple that with the trend that the medical school application is becoming more centered around the humanities with the 2015 MCAT changes and medical schools strongly suggesting applicants take these courses, it’s not exactly surprising that I looked forward to my engineering major classes as a break from these quasi-required courses.
Approximately two months ago, however, the Technique’s editorial board hashed out our feelings regarding the arts at Tech. Having written for almost a year and a half for this publication by that point, I found myself using my current position as evidence for sufficiently being involved in a creative outlet and helping aid in solving Tech’s problem of an academic culture devoid of the more liberal arts here. However, I realized that I wasn’t exactly following the opinion I had contributed to developing.
Even though the Technique has served as a fantastic creative outlet for me and a truly wonderful opportunity to meet some of the most unique people I will ever have the pleasure of knowing, I felt like this hobby of mine wasn’t enough to promote relief from Tech’s innate, for a lack of better words, number-centric, by-the-book undergraduate curriculum. In one sense, this was exactly what I signed up for, considering how much I disliked having to read an enormous volume of pages every night in high school. But in another sense, I realized that I was limiting my scope of knowledge to equations of thermodynamic states and the like instead of becoming what an academic should be—a connoisseur of knowledge.
So I did what any normal person under Tech’s stressful curriculum would do: move on. But then registration came and the issue was resurrected once again in my mind. Against what I thought was then my better judgment based on my engineering heavy course load at the time, I decided to enroll in an introduction to visual design class offered by the Computational Media department. I had little idea that this class, recommended to me by a close friend of mine, could become probably one of the best decisions I made for this semester.
Even though it has only been two weeks of class, I’ve already reaped a myriad benefits. The first and probably most important realization I’ve seen is the mental break from the engineering courses. Every time I walk into class, I feel myself able to express freely my thoughts without any feeling of restriction that comes in some of my other traditional classes where a background of the subject matter before any subsequent analysis was necessary lest you wanted to appear, simply put, like an idiot.
Another very interesting part of this class was the variety of mental exercise I was offered. Rather than trying to find a singular solution to a problem, I was given the creativity and freedom to explore projects, guided by a few rules. This sort of approach has had a carryover to my other classes, where, I try to not just solve the problem as is to get the points, but to find more personal or unique ways of understanding them.
The number one takeaway from this was, however, similar to Tom Sawyer and his ability to get his friends to do his chores for him. If this class was a requirement, there’s a 99% chance I would see it in a much more different light. However, having taken it on my accord and both realizing and seeing its benefit in my daily life has let me appreciate the value this class brings. As Tech students, given the constant bombardment of mathematical and scientific conversations we’re under in class, it may be hard to have an intelligent conversation about something other than an equation. It truly falls upon us as students of academia to pursue a holistic education that will foster an overall scholastic personality instead of a limited, albeit specialized, mental frame.