When I told my family that I wanted to go to university to study International Politics they all had that kind of smile on their face of “That’s not a real subject to study but okay” because yes social sciences are real studies but to many people for some reason it doesn’t seem as hard as a lot of ‘proper’ sciences. Which to some extent may be true.
Even if it is not hard in the sense of being hard meaning to do it right to get to the solution that you are looking for and in the sense that you have to know a lot of formulas in order to actually be able to do it, I think Social Sciences are often misconceived. Sure we don’t sit down to do incredibly hard maths exercises or have to memorise all the bones in the human body or what happens within a cell, but we too have to memorise a lot of theories, very, very old theories and believe me to fight your way through the original texts of let’s say Thomas Hobbes or John Locke is not easy peasy as they used such a different English than what we are used to today. But this isn’t supposed to be a posed on justifying the difficulty level of social sciences, but on why it is great to study them.
First of all you get to read a lot. And by a lot I mean you are basically supposed to be constantly reading. For each of the modules I am taking this semester I am supposed to be reading 10 hours per week, which simply adds up to basically a full time job of reading. But you read interesting things most of the time (tbh I didn’t really enjoy reading original texts of people that died centuries ago, however it was fascinating to see how much and how little has changed at the same time and how some theories developed hundreds of years ago still could be applied on our society today), for example this semester I am doing a module on Human Rights and I would say that is a topic that even if you are not usually politically interested is interesting to read on simply because it applies to all of us. One aspect that I love about the reading is that it often contests your ideas of what you believe to know and challenges your opinions or gives you reasons to justify them. Going back to human rights growing up in my Western View bubble I wouldn’t see anything wrong with them but if you think about it they have been created by countries with very similar values and some countries due to their own traditions reject certain rights that seem perfectly reasonable for us, so it kind of raises the question of why we think we should be allowed to pressure our ideals on other people, doesn’t it?
Another positive point about the reading is that your general knowledge and your critical thinking abilities grow a lot. You start questioning things in the news or on media, you challenge a lot of statements by experts and people pretending to be so on TV, you start to have a good ground for what seems to be ‘sophisticated conversations’ (That’s what other people seem to think, I just like being opinionated and to ramble on about things that I read).
A second thing that I like about social sciences is that it is always relevant. No matter what you talk about or what is going on either in your life or what you see in the news you usually can related it in one way or another to your degree and it often starts conversations. Especially with Politics. The amount of times I have mentioned that I study politics and people went straight into asking my opinion about all the elections that are currently going on or have happened in the recent time is quite impressive. Also for some reason people seem to think that you are smart when you know what is going on in current events which is a great benefit.
A third aspect that is great is that you can never be completely wrong or right. Tbh it can be annoying too but it is a great way to start discussions and get a lot of different opinions from different people as well. You learn to structure arguments and to make a convincing point, you learn to be tolerant, you learn to listen to people and to hear their opinions and you learn to accept that not everyone will have the same view as you. This is probably the most important lesson that you learn from social sciences is that there is always going to be more than one way to do things and that there will never be a perfect way to do it and that there are always going to be people who are not going to be happy with whatever you do.
Basically what I am trying to say is that social sciences may not seem to many people as hard or as ‘proper’ as other subjects and the question “What do you plan on doing with your degree” will always be a steady part of studying, but a degree in social sciences will give you a well rounded education not only subject related but also in the ‘transferable skills’ that everyone always goes on about. It’s definitely not a waste of time and if nothing else you’ll be able to at least able to win an argument against the people telling you that simply because you have the skills to build a proper argument.