Interdisciplinearity LO22695 -Definitions

tabeles (
Sat, 18 Sep 1999 11:00:32 -0400

Replying to LO22664 --

Hi Steve, as usual, I have snipped you, but have left a number of issues
which need unpacking particularly after John Gunkler's mention of industry
recruiting broadly educated persons for technical fields because of
uncertainty as to which way fields will develop. The same has been said
regarding investment banking. But, this is a part truth, only because many
of these persons are hired because they can learn easily and there are no
pretrained specialists available to be hired. It again speaks well for the
liberal studies flexibility.

Let me recount a discussion with a corporate recruiter for a paper
manufactuering company. He remarked that he needed persons with a broad
background because of the environmental issues which had to be confronted
on a daily basis. His problem was that the potential hires had the
credentials but could not unpack their knowledge tool box and explain how
their intellectual tools could be applied to the company's needs. They
struggled to be able to say "I am a chemist, biologist etc as if this said
anything more than I am an environmental scientist. The same holds for
nurses or other professions- the title supposedly gives the credentials
and is supposed to explain to the world what the person can do- the name
and the skill sets are supposed to be congruent- a wish devoutely hoped to
be true (to quote Shakespeare very badly).

Thus, I understand your concern about students wanting to acquire labels
such as doctor lawyer, nurse- but decry the education system which can not
build sufficient cofidence in its students that they can understand the
problems which these areas confront and that graduates have, in their
armamentarium the tools to solve these problems by virtue of their
education and not the labels they have acquired.

Therefore, I must reject, outright, your conclusion regarding the
rationale for wanting to acquire a "label" and must go back to my original
supposition that the emphasis on specialization has as much, if not more,
to do with the needs of the faculty. This does not argue, incidentally,
against acquiring a set of skills which one could put in an intellectual
tool box with a professional label. It argues more with the failure of the
post secondary institutions in their own domain and in the training of
k-12 teachers to instill the type of understanding in their pupils which
would allow the specialization to be imbedded in a more systemic
context-speaking as a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

"Specialization"- beyond creating a false confidence (perhaps a greater
danger). is the major flaw in the education system which, according to
some figures, costs industry 250 billion a year and for which they are
spending about 10-50 billion to correct (admittedly some of this is
fincreased specialization) and to build "learning organizations" which IM
(not so H)O are doomed without some significant component in "liberal

May I point out that liberal studies as a key has been identified, not by
some intellectuals in The Academy, but by the disenfranchised on the
streets who see this area as being more important to participating in the
economy than skill sets such as keyboarding and programming (cf the
efforts of Earl Shorris now being duplicated with this population by a
host of other institutions including major universities)


tom abeles

Steve Eskow wrote, in a small part

> For some, perhaps many, students it is a kind of intellectual tragedy.
> They approach the end of secondary education and the beginning of higher
> education with a rite of passage set of hopes: college will be new,
> different, I will become something in college.
> And what they find is more English, more math, more "social science":
> college as "high school with ash trays."
> The engineering students, the nursing students, want to become, feel like,
> engineers or nurses.
> And they are forced to study (a different kind of apartheid)physics, or
> sociology.
> The hunger for specializization seems connected to the quest for
> competence, for identity.
> And forced multidisciplinary general education seems to thwart that quest.
> Perhaps the curriculum ought to be turned upside down, so that
> specialization precedes philosophy and literature.


tabeles <>

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