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Can Poets and the Pocket Protector Crowd Learn Together?


There are three worlds on most American college campuses: The logical World of Science, where students and professors in white laboratory coats lose themselves in that which can be carefully observed and proved. And the dreamy World of the Humanities such as poetry and art, in which anything that can be imagined seems possible.

The third campus world, where these rationalists and free thinkers find common ground, is the local bar or pizzeria.

Most liberal-arts students are forced to take a science course or two – and engineer types must endure English lit – in order to meet requirements for a degree. But equations and formulas confound most creative souls. And having to write a composition terrifies the lab-coat crowd. Not a lot of learning goes on.

So these days, many colleges are striving to bridge the alien worlds of science and the arts in a more meaningful way. There's the New Humanities Initiative at Binghamton University in New York state, for instance. It is described as a two-way street between the two worlds – a street where logic and imagination can merge rather than collide.

An example used for study at Binghamton is the wolf – an animal whose genetics and behavior can be scientifically tracked, but which is also rapturously beautiful and fierce – even mystical.

The idea is to get the science kids' eyes away from their microscopes, and the artsy folks' minds out of the clouds, ideally producing whole cadres of renaissance women and men. Together, or so goes the thinking, new levels of understanding and expression might be reached about everything from wolves to world peace.

But one must ask: Is this possible without pizza and beer?

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