Jennifer Summit and Blakey Vermeule in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
When we were teaching at Stanford in the late 2000s, the terms “techie” and “fuzzy” became cultural touchstones: The “techies” majored in engineering and the sciences, the “fuzzies” in arts and the humanities. Faculty and administrators deplored those words, and students furiously debated them, but the terms — and the split they describe — have become an unshakable stereotype.
Of course, polarization between the humanities and the sciences is by no means unique to Stanford. We hear it when politicians challenge public universities to justify spending on departments outside STEM fields; we hear it when humanities scholars counter that the value of their fields transcends practical application. Defenders of the humanities insist that they teach foundational values and skills; their detractors taunt them for offering “worthless” degrees.
The terms of the debate have become so familiar that speakers on both sides, however vehement or heartfelt their arguments, appear to be reading from a well-worn script. So ingrained is this conflict that it is easy to believe it describes a fundamental division in human knowledge. Although we are literary scholars, we are not here to defend the humanities against the sciences, but instead to show how an age-old debate has both created the division and can show the way past it.