November 11, 2022 | OPINION | By AJ Fabbri

Colorado College’s general education program places significant emphasis on humanities courses, teaching students to think critically, write well, and understand the structures that shape our society.

Most importantly, they teach us the art of bullshit.

I’m at the point where the remainder of the humanities classes I see myself taking during my time here are motivated by completing my General Education requirements. It’s unfortunate because I generally enjoy these courses, but I’m starting to feel a sense of humanities burnout.

I want to take courses within my International Political Economy major and/or that apply to my potential career paths. Maybe the weight of life after college is already starting to hit my sophomore self. Even though right now strikes me as too early for this postgrad contemplation, it may not be.

From what I have heard from peers and advisors, it seems as if I have until midway through junior year to figure out if I want to attend graduate school right after college. Either that or I’ll need to be seriously planning a postgrad career path. I could be reading too much into the pressures of life but I would argue that hustle culture and societal pressures for success drive this overthinking. On top of that, I have zero clue what my idea of a successful life even looks like.

Success also confuses me in the humanities, specifically when it comes to writing. As a person who chooses to use some of my free time to write for The Catalyst, it feels strange to complain about writing. When I think about it, my gripes lie more with the systems of grading writing inherent to the humanities than the act of writing itself. It can be easy to tell the difference between good and bad writing — but writing and assessing it are inherently subjective processes. Writing assignments are open-ended; they’re not about finding the correct answer or checking boxes… until they are.

Take a recent history assignment I had, for example: it was a primary source analysis paper for which I received a less-than-ideal grade. From my professor’s comments, I discerned that I had spent too much time on analysis and did not focus nearly enough on historical context. Fair enough. After all, it was a history paper and I probably should have better guessed what to include based on that fact.

Still, it does not sit well with me that I lost more points on the structure of my paper than the quality of my writing and analysis. I’ve run into this problem quite a few times and, further complicating it, every professor and assignment is different. A strategy that earns an A in one class will leave me with a B- in the next. Calibrating for a constantly moving target can be draining.

For me, writing is often about conveying information in compelling ways with the intent to inform or persuade. That’s how it has been in many of my classes and in my experiences as a legislative intern and an opinion writer. I try to focus more on generating analyses and commentary than regurgitating easily accessible information.

Some courses and professors love when I use this approach; for others, I need to recalibrate and focus on checking off boxes to produce something I know my grader will approve. But that recalibration is taxing especially in humanities courses where I rarely know what style or approach will earn me a good grade.

One of the main reasons I enjoy political science and economics is that writing for them incorporates qualitative data, quantitative data, and the analytical part of the humanities. I consider these social sciences to fall between STEM and the humanities; I don’t feel burnt out on them because they don’t overload me on either end of the spectrum. It’s easier and much more satisfying for me to use information and statistics to come to new conclusions than it is to try and figure out exactly what information a humanities assignment wants me to reiterate and in what order.

Despite my qualms with the moving targets, humanities courses laid the foundations for all my work relating to politics and economics. I’ve heard a saying from alumni and students alike that CC gives you a degree in bullshitting. That is far from a bad thing. I think it’s what makes this place so special; the ability to adapt to new situations and present information in whatever way will be most advantageous to oneself is a powerful skill that very few possess.

Call me a cynic but I believe that the art of bullshitting is what humanities classes at CC teach so well and, despite how they may annoy me, it is exactly why I value them so highly.

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