Snow, a renown physicist and a novelist as well did not disappoint. Snow spoke neither about physics nor literature. Rather Snow articulated the concept of the "two cultures." Snow argued that scholars and students in the liberal arts disciplines were by and large illiterate in mathematics and science and moreover this condition didn't bother them at all.
There were two cultures. People in society and in particularly in the modern university lived and worked in silos. They didn't mix with one another and they surely didn't understand one another.
Snow's address precipitated a ferocious response from F.R. Leavis, Great Britain's greatest literary scholar and man of letters Leavis argued that scientist and engineers were bright enough all right, but they were culturally ignorant being exclusively devoted to their empirical, number-driven disciplines. There were two cultures and they did not mix, nor did they want to. There were number crunchers on one hand and then there were those devoted to ideas and values.
I had my own experience with the silo phenomenon when I was in graduate school at the University of Iowa. The headquarters for the literary studies students was on the third floor of the building where I worked while the headquarters of the creative writing programs was on the fourth floor. seldom did the faculty or students mix. I thought it odd that the students of literature and the creators of literature didn't mix much. And of course, no one took the footbridge across the river to where the scientists and engineers were housed.
While people might prefer one type on knowledge over another the idea that the fields of knowledge are strictly exclusive is false. In engineering and science, the silos are collapsing. A biomedical engineer often needs a background in mechanical engineering as might an orthopedic surgeon and it is a legitimate question as to whether the industrial design majors ought to be encamped with the design students or with the mechanical engineers. Environmental engineers must have a background in civil engineering in order to deal with issues of structural design and water quality.
Southern Tech and H Russell Beatty of Wentworth Institute of Technology. Beatty wanted all degree students, including the associate degree students to take calculus. Johnson, on the other hand, argued that advanced algebra gave many students enough mathematics exposure so they could successfully pursue many careers. In the long run, Johnson wins. In technology here are lots of jobs that do not require the use of calculus. Yes, in design courses, calculus might be necessary. What was most important was that the student was not afraid of mathematics, a common enough situation among many liberal arts students. Most of my friends in undergraduate school put off the science and math requirement (one course) until their senior year when, with law school admissions and graduate school fellowships in hand, they took the course we all called "happy numbers." They wanted to talk about math, they just didn't want to "do" math.
I suffered for many years from "math phobia." In my pre-college, high school honors program Mathematics was a pure subject. The object was knowledge. There was never any mention of a real-world application. I could rattle off the definitions of sine, cosine. tangent, cotangent. secant and cosecant but I didn't know what any of this was used for and I could care less.
It was when I began to teach at a technical college that I began to see what was going on. The surveying course which was required for all majors was the key. There had to be some math that was a short cut to walking around with very long pieces of rope to measure distances and perimeters. Yes, Mathematics was a body of knowledge to be studied and increased but it is also a language and it is important that students learn to speak it. Is there anything more important to students than the math that is the formula for computing compound interest? What does an investment pay? What does a credit card or a home mortgage really cost? Mathematics indeed is pure, but it must also be taught to students as connected reality.