“Possible things, then, will be all those things that are not impossible things - that is, all those things that are either contingent or necessary. If there are no necessary things then all possible things will be contingent and all contingent things will be possible. If there is a necessary thing, however, then there will be a possible thing which is not contingent.” - Philosophy: The Quest For Truth (Pojman, Vaughn)

This is a quote from a textbook for a first year philosophy course.

I have long maintained that the idea that some academic programs are harder than others is preposterous. I’ve experienced this from both ends - people telling me that I “must be really smart to be in computer engineering”, since there’s “no way they could do that!”, as well as those informing me that psychology is “waaaaaay harder” than computer engineering, because it requires “hours of reading every day, and you’ve got to write a thesis and if you don’t get published your entire degree is a waste!” Both of these statements I find to be a bit… well, rather silly.

For example: I find the textbook paragraph above extremely difficult to parse and understand, whereas a language-brain-type would have no issue doing so; that said, I am likely able to parse and understand concepts of analog signals better than they would. It’s much less a matter of the content, and more a matter of the reader or learner. Different people have difficulty with different things, simple as that.

While anecdotal evidence is a logical fallacy (see https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/anecdotal), and I am in no way basing my conclusions off just this, my own progress and marks (most notably in my university career, although a similar analysis could be done for high school if I had the marks accessible) are a good example of how wrong this claim is. Last term - my second half of 3rd year computer engineering (honours) at the University of Waterloo - I took Psych 101 as an elective. You know, THE Psych 101 course. The one that seemingly everybody who has ever been to university has taken - and passed without any effort. Well, I got a lower mark in THE Psych 101 course than I did in my 3rd-year computer networks course, despite Psych 101 being generally recognized as a bird course for first years. In fact, I received a lower mark in Psych 101 than I received in my 3rd-year engineering economics course as well. Speaking of that, I also took Econ 102 (macroeconomics, another one of those everybody-takes-it first year courses) in the same term, and received nearly the same mark in it as the aforementioned 3rd year engineering economics course - a course that should, by it’s description at least, be much more difficult. So what gives?

Now, you might think this breaks down to amount of effort put in. Undoubtedly, I spent more time on my engineering courses than I did my Psych 101 and Econ 102 electives. But, quite frankly, that wasn’t the root cause of the lower marks. The entire term, I knew that it wasn’t time, or studying that would enable me to get 100% in these supposedly simple, throwaway courses. I knew what would, though - nothing. Well, nothing short of a brain transplant. Thing is, I don’t have the brain required for social sciences, or economics, or (apparently) philosophy. These are topics that require huge amounts of memorization, which I am simply unable to do (unless you’re talking Arrested Development quotes, that’s an exception). They also are topics where there is, at times, very little connectedness - although this may only be from my perspective, really. I find the topics we learn about in our computer engineering courses to be very interrelated, both within topics in a course as well as within courses (even spanning multiple years), whereas I don’t see this same sort of network forming with other subjects. Adding to my perhaps skewed perception is the professors teaching these courses. My engineering economics course and Econ 102 had similar content, but the engineering one was framed in such a way that it had more of that connectedness, and I was therefore able to do just fine in it. On the other hand, Econ 102 was presented more as a loosely-connected list of concepts, without much “glue” tying them together in real-world application, making it much harder for me to really understand what was going on.

So, am I insane? Or do I have a point here? I don’t actually know to be honest. Thing is, at this point, having been through most of a university degree, there’s really no way for me to compare. If I were to pursue a degree in psychology after graduating, it would be an unfair comparison. I already have experience with the university education system, allowing me to effectively game the system at times, much like students do in high school. (Other students, I mean. Not me. I was a workaholic for those four years. Totally.)

In conclusion (he wrote, feeling a bit like a high school student trapped in an essay), it seems to me that while not all degrees are created equal, not all people are created equal either, and we therefore cannot judge the relative merit of degrees based on perceived difficulty. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so we tend to take pity on ourselves and think that we’re in the roughest spot, and that everybody else has it easy. Well guess what? They don’t. Stop saying they do. Putting them down to make yourself feel better kinda makes you a jerk, and if there’s one thing I know, there isn’t a course that is designed for the jerk-brained.

(In preparation for philosophy essay due next week, I am adding a few sentences down here to bring the word count up to 1000 words. It’s amazing that I can just braindump this much without even trying, whereas said philosophy essay is taking far, far more effort. Shoot, 989 at that last sentence. So, now I’m at 1000. Exactly, actually.)