Letters to the Editor

Math is an Art, Not a Science

When I was a mathematics major at Knox in the 1960s, planning was under way for what became the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center. At that time, Rothwell Stephens was the chair of the Department of Mathematics. When discussion of the building first began, it was referred to as “the new science building.” Dr. Stephens, who was a well-respected mathematician, was upset. He said, if the Department of Mathematics was moved into a science building, he would resign. According to Dr. Stephens, mathematics is an art, not a science. Actually, he said it is a branch of philosophy. Knox did not want to lose this honored mathematician, so the building is called the ScienceMathematics Center, rather than the Science Building.

I am very proud of my bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from Knox College. My degree from Knox opened doors for me later on. The fact that Dr. Stephens was an integral part of my education contributed to the respect for my degree. I hope many future students will recognize mathematics as the art that it is and choose to earn a B.A. in mathematics rather than a B.S. I cringed when I read your recent article where you included mathematics in a list of sciences, imagining Dr. Stephens’ reaction.

—Janet Wittig Warfield ’66

More Thoughts on College Costs

Megan Scott’s article “Yes College is Worth It: Busting Myths about Higher Education” was full of interesting information and perspective about the the value of a liberal arts education. (I certainly value mine at Knox.) However, like most articles on this subject, when it comes to the issue of the skyrocketing cost of going to college, I think it misses the boat on three key points:

1. It is true that the “net price” for a year of college is often far less than the “full sticker price” due to financial aid. Still, the fact that the sticker price (at Knox) has increased more than 1,000 percent since the late 1970s (while the consumer price index has increased only about 300 percent) is dismaying to college shoppers. The sticker price is scary high.

2. The difference between the sticker price and what people actually pay is befuddling. When one is thinking, “What does it cost for a year at this college?” there is no coherent answer. It could be $55,000. It could be $5,000. Or it could be zero. This undermines confidence in the process.

3. Financial aid is what brings down the sticker price, but that can be grossly misleading because loans are called “aid” and excluded from the net price. But loans must be paid. They do not bring down the net cost. Obscuring this fact is manipulative (even if common practice these days). Imagine shopping for a car and having the sales rep refer to the down payment as the “net price.”

Thanks to Megan Scott and the Knox Magazine for addressing the difficult and uncomfortable issue of the cost of college today.

—Mark Gallagher ’79

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Knox Magazine welcomes the opinions and comments of its readers. Write to the Editor, Knox Magazine, Box K-233, 2 East South Street, Galesburg, IL 61401-4999, or e-mail knoxmag@knox.edu. Letters should refer to material published in the magazine and may be edited for length or clarity.