March 11, 2005

Our Daily Breadth

I read an article about David Johnson, the president of The University of Waterloo, in which he stressed the importance of giving students a "broad education".

When he went into detail, he explained that students needed to realise the importance of the maths and sciences. It is math and science, then, that constituted the missing "breadth" in education for Mr. Johnson.

In my mathematics faculty, "breadth" in education always meant taking arts courses. Isn't Arts the very definition of a liberal education? Isn't Arts what we usually mean when we say "breadth"?

Interesting that Johnson, the head of a university ploughing through the future on the basis of math and science programs, considers that math and science are still missing from the common curriculum.

I suppose I got a skewed view in mathematics. We had an inbalance to one side, so naturally we regarded the other side as "the breadth". And I suppose numerically, it may not be surprising, as the arts faculty is still the biggest at Waterloo. (Although probably not bigger than math, engineering and science put together.)

Still, I found it strange that this man of education would use the same term in the opposite sense that I had always thought of it. I would have thought we need a bit more arts in life.

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