Interdisciplinearity LO22622

Steve Eskow (
Sat, 11 Sep 1999 10:03:01 -0600

Replying to LO22621 --

Eli Camhi helps me on this issue in several ways:

>Perhaps the answer lies in humility and clear purpose.

But: the answer to what question?

>In my work as a member of a "multidisciplinary" team serving the HIV
>infected community we have learned that no single discipline can meet the
>needs of that community. However, working together, we can.

"Multidisciplinary": the same as "interdisciplinary," or different?

Is it right to assume that the value of each member of a
"multidisciplinary team" derives from their deep and focused immersion in
their specialty? The doctor, the sociologist, the psychologist, the
research scientist: each trained in a single discipline?

>Otherwise its a bit like the blind men and the elephant.

Perhaps this well-accepted metaphor gets at the central issue between
those in the academic community insisting on merging the disciplines and
those who resist.

The melders and interdisciplinarians: do they assume that students are
blind, unable to see how legs and torso and snout and tusks come together
to form the elephant of knowledge?

And: is the world like an elephant, capable of being seen as a whole if we
"integrate" the separate disciplines?

Shifting the metaphor:

Those who resist fusion and "integration" might believe that what the
school and college can do, the most and the best the academy can do, is to
equip students with the "tools" of the disciplines, so that students
acquire easy skill with these very different tools.

(The hammer quite different from the saw and the plane and the drill, and
resisting "integration.")

And students leave the school equipped with these tools of science,
literature, mathematics, and social science, and use them to build their
own worlds and world views.

Steve Eskow


Steve Eskow <>

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