Liberal arts have four ways of thinking, commonly referred to as ‘lenses,’ used to understand and challenge the existing approach angle of various topics. These four lenses are history, humanities, social science, and natural science. Each lens has key characteristics that differentiate and coincide with others. Professionals and relevant individuals build world views using these perspectives to understand the world better. This research paper attempts to analyze voting rights through the lenses of liberal arts.
Analysis of past events and trends is known as history. This approach involves studying and analyzing past events to understand how they lead to current circumstances. Questions about the context, the political situation, and the preceding events are attempted to be solved to understand better the cause and effect leading up to current circumstances (Academic Support Resources, 2019). Past solution effectiveness is also examined in an attempt to solve existing issues. Accuracy of date events is crucial when assessing data via this lens. Qualitative data is preferred as this lens mainly offers detailed accounts of events, including the numerical values associated with these occurrences.
The humanities lens distinctively studies human behavior and actions in building its world view. Exploring languages, religions, and cultures is a common characteristic of this perspective. Changes and trends in human activity are also analyzed through this lens for an accurate overview of events. Common inquiries include one’s ability to be objective when analyzing another culture, whether it is accurately represented in its artistry, how the culture’s beliefs reflect its organization and religion’s effects on society. Philology, philosophy, theology, and antiquity studies are examples of disciples associated with this study.
Humans are social beings; the study of the relationships between people and society is referred to as social science (Carlton, 2020). Like humanities, this is a field that mainly involves examining human behavior—better understanding society, social institutions, politics, culture, and human relationships. Social sciences, however, differ by focusing more on social relationships and relations than human action. Questions about teamwork efficiency, interactions between people, the correlation between data and patterns observed, if any, are commonly asked.
Natural scientists follow a specific process of observing, analyzing, and predicting phenomena in the physical world. This lens is mainly driven by predictions and observations from the scientific method. Fields such as chemistry, biology, physics, and other STEM-related disciplines like mathematics and technology are a part of natural science. Observation, hypothesis formation, and experimental verification are standard methods involved in this perspective. Qualitative data is vital for this lens. Numerical data from credible experiments is used to construct a world view and hypothesize about the topic.
Types of Evidence
Primary and secondary sources are the main types used by these four lenses. Tertiary sources are mainly a collection and distillation of primary and secondary sources. Sources of information for historians are mainly primary, involved in first-hand accounts of the event. These include artifacts from an era, letters from people who lived at a particular time, documents from the past, first-hand accounts of witnesses or otherwise directly involved participants, and even photographs. Secondary sources include books and articles about a topic previously researched. Alternative sources include manuals, guidebooks, and encyclopedias.
Professionals in this field explore how cultures interpret the human area; hence most of its sources are relatively primary. This approach promotes expanding understanding of multiple experiences through various mediums such as dance, literature, photography, fine art, and philosophy. First-hand information is obtained from autobiographies, diaries, eyewitness accounts, letters, works of literature, and legal documents. Alternative sources are biographies, indexes, journal articles, and monographs about the topic. Reviews of books, musical recordings, movies, and other works of art are considered secondary sources.
Examples of primary sources used in this lens are interviews, correspondence, court cases, laws and legislation, speeches, and photographs. Social scientists also utilize scholarly articles that critique original research articles, book or movie reviews, directories, and dictionaries. Secondary sources are not considered evidence in this lens as they are a commentary on and discussion of evidence (“Social Sciences,” 2021). Tertiary sources used in this perspective include textbooks on methodology and data analysis of the tests performed.
Journals or conference papers are a common primary source for scientists. These documents describe a new theory or experiment results with a well-defined methodology. Laboratory notebooks are also used as a primary source. Plant or mineral samples are also considered a primary data source, especially for practical tests. Controlled environments are also employed to allow the most accurate data from the trials. Scientists usually analyze secondary sources such as meta-analyses or review articles from similar studies to build a broad overview of a topic. The use of numerical data is also prominent in this scope. Primary sources are encouraged for credibility. Textbooks are good examples of tertiary sources for natural sciences. Objectivity is also encouraged to ensure data collected is as unbiased as possible.
Similarities and Differences Between the Four Lenses
Humanities and social sciences are very similar in that they distinctively deal with human behavior. Primary sources are used mainly as a result of both. First-hand accounts are responsible for the accuracy of the information and hence analysis made in both these lenses. Social sciences and natural science also rely heavily on primary sources produced by the scientific method. Another correlation is that researchers must vet data used in all approaches as credible. The use of peer-reviewed data and publications is a common theme in data collection and analysis. Secondary sources based on the primary topic are also utilized to enhance understanding of a topic. Both social science and natural science generally have applicable laws with reliable expectations to the result when applied. Social sciences face major validation issues, unlike natural sciences, because they do not deal with empirical facts.
Natural science also deals with many physical events, while social science exclusively deals with human society (“Social Sciences Vs. Natural Science,” 2021). Variables used in natural science are restrictive and can easily predict an outcome due to the physical world being treated as a closed system. This differs from humanities in that the variables are ever-changing depending on the group or circumstances. Human society can be regarded as an open system in that new ideas are ever emerging and influencing the culture of a group of people. Data utilized in natural science is also experimental, obtained from experiments, while information used by social science is experiential, collected from real-life experiences such as interviews, surveys, and questionnaires.
Progress of Voting Rights in the United States
Voting rights are a cornerstone to the freedom and life experienced in any democracy. The United States has a reputation globally for being an exemplary representative democracy despite its challenges at this core pillar of its foundation. The fight for fair voting rights for all citizens is a struggle that dates back to the early days of the United States (“The Week in History: February 3, 1870: The 15th Amendment Ratified”, n.d.). Around the 1820s, property qualifications for voting began to be eliminated, and the 15th and 19th amendments granted African-American men and women, respectively. From a historical lens, this was progress towards a more inclusive democracy.
As a person of color, I can appreciate the steps to ensure all Americans access such an essential practice in any democracy. For many families of color, the current generation represents a fourth with enough rights to vote for their preferred candidate. Natural sciences have supported voting rights progress by developing statistical estimates over voter registration, vote dilution, malapportionment, and quantitative measures of constitutional violations (Latner, 2018). My grandfather, 89, proudly displays the family tree with markers on all members who were allowed to vote; a clear pattern can be seen as the number of eligible voters is highest at the lowest end of the tree.
Collective knowledge about voting rights has expanded at a phenomenal rate over the past decade (Latner, 2018). Social science has already produced a sub-field known as election science, an advanced field in studying politics. Society’s understanding of how electoral rules shape partisan representation, public policies, and political competition has been reshaped. March On for Voting Rights is an excellent example of how more people are aware of their rights and sensitive enough to react when they are threatened.
Few things as an African-American can bring me to hope for a fair democracy for all cultures. The lens of humanities also indicates that voting rights have significantly influenced the cultures of minorities. With the gradual inclusion of African-American people into the administrative systems, their culture intertwined with other Americans. Rhythm and Blues and its popularity are excellent examples of positive interference resulting from cultures interacting.
Is the Progress Made in Voting Rights Positive for African-Americans?
Although these lenses are beautiful tools to assess voting rights, unanswered questions remain. Has the progress in voting rights been positive for minorities, particularly African-Americans? If so, is there still much to be done? From a historical point of view, the progress has generally been positive. Voting laws have been passed over the decades to increase voter count by abolishing unnecessary property ownership and gender criteria. In 1965, the Voting Right Acts outlawed discriminatory voting rules mainly adapted in southern states after the Civil War (Kennedy, 2021). Today, I am a proud owner of a registration card, a right my ancestors didn’t get a chance to enjoy. The Voting Rights Act’s Section 2 bars racial discrimination in voting practices (Gaylord, 2018).
From a humanities perspective, voting has emboldened more minorities to file complaints, informal and formal, when their voting rights are infringed. The famous August 1963 March on Washington, where more than a quarter-million people participated, is an excellent example of citizens valuing their rights enough to protest for them to the state. On this day, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Jr. delivered the exalted “I Have a Dream” speech, a cultural, literary piece celebrated up until today. I can testify that discussions about our voting rights have become more comfortable among the African-American community, with more citizens today knowing their rights.
Social sciences have also grown more accurate, with more marginalized communities willing to participate in interviews and study. This is a direct result of inclusivity due to their voting rights being upheld; however, this is a double-edged sword as the information can be used for counter-productive outcomes such as vote dilution. Among my African-American community, a significant part of the community is currently more willing to participate in research programs, especially those aimed at exploring African-American culture.
Natural sciences have also seen an increase in the inclusivity of diverse social groups. With objective methodology, bias situations in voting practices have been exposed over the years. As a result, science has rapidly become a tool to collect and assess information where unbiased results are desired. Numerous studies usually carried out before an election are good examples of this to determine demographic details about a voting population. Keywords such as African-American inclusion and voting rights practices help explore these questions.
State of Voting Rights for African-Americans in the United States
Are the voting rights of minorities, particularly African-Americans, been realized? Various methodologies can build an overview of the situation to answer this question. The research question is whether voting rights have improved, particularly for people of different ethnic backgrounds. The quantitative design method can be used to obtain the data of voter demographics before and after voting rights laws were passed. Deductive reasoning is then applied after experimentation and measurement. Qualitative design methods also describe and conclude the data observed in numerical or text form.
Over the years, change has been attempted to ensure voting rights for all American citizens. Challenges remain to uphold the constitutional right to vote for African-American groups. Unsavory voting practices such as poll fees and literacy tests have been employed to suppress participation among African-Americans, particularly in southern states (“The Week in History: February 3, 1870: The 15th Amendment Ratified”, n.d.). Hundreds of polling locations, mainly located in communities of color, were closed even after the Constitution’s Fifteenth Amendment. Legislation passed to encourage the participation of marginalized communities. However, the qualitative analysis paints a different picture, with many laws reintroducing discriminatory voting laws in the years after. The 1963 March on Washington and the March on for Voting Rights 2021 are indicators that the roots of the problem are still deeply planted in the country’s system.
Social Science Lens
From a social science lens, the state of voting rights for African-Americans has seen a quantitative increase. In the struggle for the civil rights of 1964, African-Americans increased their efforts to vote (Moore, 2021). Approximately 43% of eligible African-Americans were permitted to vote. The Voter Education Project worked to maximize the number of African Americans registered in the southern states contributing to this notable increase. Quantitatively this indicates positive growth in voter numbers among African-American and other African-American communities. From a qualitative standpoint, this is positive progress numerically. The percentage of African-American citizens participating in the electoral process has increased significantly over the years despite the numerous setbacks along the way.
Similarities and Differences Between Social and Historical Lenses
Both lenses rely heavily on the potential voter as the primary source of information. Historical perspectives rely on first-hand accounts about events, while social sciences utilize data obtained from experiments for a similar purpose. Another similarity is that both lenses indicate positive progress towards achieving equal voting rights in American society. Quantitative and qualitative data techniques are also employed in both lenses to ensure the perspective built on a voting situation is as accurate as possible. Both perspectives also employ the exclusive use of peer-reviewed data about human voting behavior. Like other liberal art lenses, the pair are both used to expand one’s view of the voting rights situations in the United States by introducing a new angle to a known problem.
Relationships between objects involved in the voting process are analyzed from both perspectives. Social sciences explore the relationship between people in relation to voting rights, while a historical view highlights the relationship between current laws and past voting legislation. Predicting outcomes is also difficult for both as the variable is ever-changing in correlation to voting data. Trends are also more difficult to detect unless the pattern repeatedly occurs over a short amount of time.
Social sciences distinctively employ the scientific method to collect and analyze voting data. Historical lenses use a more flexible approach in obtaining data as the information is not dependent on a closed system. Scientific techniques aren’t compulsory in this lens as the collected data is qualitative (such as voter experience and participant ethnicity) rather than numerical. When analyzing voting rights, cause and effect must precede a historical lens, unlike a social science perspective which can analyze events as they occur. The pair can also be considered matters of inquiry as they attempt to answer the state of voting rights among African-Americans.
More research on the topic of voting rights is required. Many of the approaches discussed in this paper lean on either qualitative or quantitative methods, and a balanced approach will create a complete picture of the voting rights situation. Legislation and the politics responsible for shaping the current landscape require a more in-depth look. I suggest conducting audits of various polling stations for accurate voter demographics. External sources should also be verified for data accuracy. To further explore the topics of voting rights, a hybrid of lenses is needed to analyze it. Social science and humanities combined as a singular approach would provide enough room for qualitative and quantitative data.
Both lenses produce a hybrid that encompasses qualitative and numerical strategies for collecting and processing data. Humanities will also ensure that relevant information about African-American culture is understood and appreciated as part of the inclusion process. Social science promotes numerical data use, thus improving the accuracy and reliability of the study, essential for peer-reviewing. Are the voters primarily one age group? How has the inclusion of more African-American in the voting process affected social relations with other societies? All these questions are essential to fully assess the voting rights state in the country, especially that of minorities in the United States.
Voting rights is a polarizing topic in American society, despite all the attempts made by the state to solve the underlying issues of discrimination. Liberal arts enable the analysis of the undercurrents that shape our culture and our lives as individuals. However, these methods are not sufficient on their own. A hybrid of two or more lenses offers a wide enough field of view to assess situations at a quantitative and qualitative level.
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