Interdisciplinearity LO22663

John Gunkler (
Wed, 15 Sep 1999 09:17:01 -0500

Replying to LO22645 --

Steve Eskow writes of the danger of the Jack of all trades.

Steve, while I understand your concern, I wonder if you aren't indulging
in a bit of either/or thinking about interdisciplinearity. That is, are
you of the mind that to teach in an interdisciplinary way means to never
teach specialization in anything? Is that what others in this dialogue
have said?

I certainly don't believe that. And I certainly do believe in
interdisciplinearity. I've been amused to note, recently, that businesses
are now hiring liberal arts students at high initial salaries for
technical/ computer jobs. Their reasoning (according to those quoted in
the news): We don't know where the field is going in the next five years
(or even in the next few months!) What we need is people educated broadly
enough to be able to adapt to new ways. What we need is people who have
learned how to think.

When I was an undergraduate, everyone in my liberal arts college was
required to spend about half their time in the first two years taking an
interdisciplinary series of courses. In my time this was an extended tour
of Western thinking (now it includes Eastern thought as well.) This
series of courses was taught by professors from every discipline in the
college. They were no less specialized than the "masters" of their trades
you want -- but the context in which they shared their specialties was an
interdisciplinary one. We did not get the impression that the world (of
nature nor of ideas) had separate places for physics, philosophy, biology,
etc., but, rather, that the world was one -- and requires much
specialized, and varied, knowledge to deal with it successfully.


"John Gunkler" <>

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