It’s time to accept that BAs are significantly harder than BScs
Just because you can balance equations doesn’t mean you can write a sentence, hun
It’s time to admit what people have been afraid to say out loud for a while now: doing a BA is much much harder than doing a BSc. Whether it’s English Literature, History, or Philosophy, doing a BA is really, really hard. It’s much harder, in fact, than studying maths, chemistry, or biology.
For starters, we can’t copy each others’ answers like you do in your coursework, and once you learn something you’ve learnt it – it’s not so easy for us. We have to chug a bottle of wine and weep over Sparknotes’ very basic summaries before we can even fathom choosing our essay titles, let alone writing out introductions. BSc students can just Google their answers or ask Matt on the boys’ Whatsapp what he got for question 1a. We get given the choice to write our own essay title, too – what the fuck does that even mean? Is it some sort of reverse psychology where our tutors want us to write an essay title to show autonomy. Or will they take offence if we don’t pick one of theirs? It’s much harder than finding out what ‘x’ is.
When it comes to coursework, you’re always going to get higher than us, too. You’ll come back with a smarmy 90%, and we can tell you think our hard earned 71% is rubbish, but it’s all relative: you may have beaten us by 19% but let’s be honest: it’s not really your own work, is it? In BAs, we have to go and write arguments. We have to actually form ideas out of words, and do so in a coherent and convincing way.
If our marker is in a bad mood because his cat’s shit on his first edition of Oliver Twist, we won’t know about it, but our grades might be lower. Your marker, on the other hand, can’t begrudge you for regurgitating a mathematics equation – two plus two will always equal four. So, yeah, you might score higher than us, but a maths quiz is nowhere near as hard as writing an essay.
I’m not saying that your degree is pointless, because it’s probably not. But to think that just because it’s a science which makes you smarter, is, paradoxically, pretty stupid. You’re lucky as well because you’re actually taught your degree, whereas a third-year BA student will probably have an average of two hours a week of contact time. We’ve got to scrawl through thousands of library books before we find information that will help our essays, when yours is all on Blackboard anyway. We’re sick of the smug looks you throw at us when you ask if we can balance an equation – because we probably can’t – but as least we can use the right to, two, too in context.
We also have literally no friends on our courses. You’re in nine until five everyday which is good for you and your weird bunsen burner pals, but humanities have pretty much no contact with each other; you spend the whole seminar discussing Augustine’s theories which doesn’t give you much of a chance to ask if you want to hit up bar that evening. Your Science housemates will be talking about how they’re going to go out for dinner next Friday and all you’re concerned with is whether Emily will remember to give you back your pen you lent her last term, so it’s harder for BA students not only to study, but to socialise, too. We’re forced to join weird societies to make friends but still there’ll be a divide between the ‘hard’ subject of Computer Science and the ‘soft’ subject of Drama.
Your degrees are also more obviously vocational but no, we’re not all going to become History teachers or Religious Studies lecturers. We can become journalists, civil servants, MPs, CEOs, start our own businesses – we can do anything. And while that threatens you and your marginalised concept of STEM subjects as being intrinsically more academic and well paid, you are finitely skilled in one area, whereas we have talents in many. Whether we’re teachers or world leaders, we don’t need to have a BSc next to our name to do it: a BA is good enough.
It’s obvious that BSc students think BA students want to be them. You ask us: “What’s the point to your degree?”, “Haven’t you learned to read yet?”, “Don’t you wish you were good at Physics?” The answer, quite honestly, is that you’re intimidated by us. We don’t mock you when you write things like: “Sure your not coming out tonight?”, or: “This lectures really boring”, but we could. If you’re reading this and can’t tell the issue in those phrases then you’re probably a BSc student. So don’t think we want to be you just because we skim past your inaccuracies which we get bang on point everyday – it’s harder to be a BA student because people take humanities for granted but think that being skilled at Science is a gift. But then, of course, you come to us to check your CVs, your lab reports, your job applications because to some degree you do realise that our BAs are of value – only though, when it suits you.
There’s a real disparity here between the self-professed more ‘academic’ course of a BSc, and the perceived more ‘creative’ side of a BA. People will say: “Oh, well, we need creative people in the world,” as if it’s a substitute for being academic, which isn’t the case. BA students are academic – just not in the form your logical mind wants us to be. We couldn’t analyse the molecular formation of a cell, but neither could you analyse a line from Taming of the Shrew. You think your answers will give you more validity and real world application, but in actuality you forget that it’s humanities, not sciences, that are more concerned with people: note the structure of the word, with ‘human’ lexically leading the subject. You’re bothered by ideas and theories first, whereas we’re primarily concerned with people and communications.
It’s time to stop pretending that your BSc is harder and worth more than our BAs, because the reality is that you need us just as much as we need you.