The Social “Sciences”?

The completion of two years of a formal secondary education calls for some serious reflection of the academic world. This summer, I took sociocultural anthropology and American government for specific reasons: I thought that the former would be a breeze, while the latter would teach me what I desperately wanted to know about the basics of our government system. Granted, I entered anthropology with some serious reservations, based on past experiences with the social sciences. I had my first taste of the soft sciences in eleventh grade with A.P. human geography, and in twelfth grade I took A.P. psychology. I’ve since taken sociology, communication theory, and now anthropology, and I can draw some pretty broad, pretty unfavorable conclusions about nearly all of them.

The social sciences, to me, are a conglomeration of academics who have risen to prominence because of the extent of their publishing which analyzes some social aspect in depth and tries to base its research on some fuzzy reconstruction of the scientific method. They conclude that no conclusion can be reached, and that a real resolution is likely a combination of several theories. Yes, this is an overgeneralization. But take introductory psychology: most theories conclude that no conclusion can be drawn, or tell us what we already know. “Tip of the tongue phenomenon” is a “real” psychological concept, which explains that sometimes we forget what we’re about to say, without giving any elucidation or description of why this happens. Then what, pray tell, is the use of these fields?

Next, and what to me is the single most infuriating factor of the soft sciences, is the simple fact that so many things in these fields cannot be proven or disproven, and when presented in a dissertation or as concrete research findings, the theory won’t be rejected so long as it can be verbally substantiated. I’ve written many an academic paper in which I didn’t believe my fundamental thesis, yet I wrote a good argument and earned a good grade. If it can’t be disproven, it’s accepted as factually correct. Every high school student who has taken SATs knows this to be true: a good essay that earns a 12/12 on the standardized test is one that makes a good argument and twists facts to its advantage.

This is all being said, I’d like to point out the merits that I found of my government class. My textbook and my professor were inexplicably impartial, and we learned the facts of how the American government works without the insertion of fluffy theories or untestable models. There was no political correctness involved, dancing around the vulnerable points of specific groups of people and then redeeming their questionable moral and ethical standards on the degrading platform of “cultural diversity”, like my anthropology textbook did this semester.

I could probably write an entire book on why I feel that the social sciences need drastic reform, but for now, here’s a taste of my opinion. I hope that it stimulates thoughts and opinions that you may have previously taken for granted, and gets you thinking a little bit about the world of academia.



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