Interdisciplinearity LO22749

Steve Eskow (
Mon, 27 Sep 1999 11:40:43 -0600

Replying to LO22732 --

To John Gunkler, and all interested:

>However, as I experienced it, in "liberal arts schools" the emphasis is
>not simply on including the traditional liberal arts subjects
>(disciplines) but in teaching in an interdisciplinary way. In my
>undergraduate college, for example, the freshman comp teacher knew
>exactly what the chem prof was teaching -- because they were teaching it

In my experience, John, the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration you
cite is far less prevalent in the arts and sciences than it is in in
technical and vocational education.

In nursing and medical education the goal of the clinical experience and
internship is to bring all of the learning and skill together in an
applied situation.

The idea of "cooperative work experience," pioneered by the University of
Connecticut in 1906, and by Antioch, was an attempt to do the critical
important worth of integrating the disciplines taught in the classroom
with non classroom experience. The "service-learning" movement, which
allows students to leave campus for a semester or a year to do Peace Corps
kinds of service, and to relate what they experience to the disciplines,
also moves in this direction.

I started as freshman comp teacher, John, and I wince a bit at the notion
that knitting together composition and chemistry is a solution to major
deficits of our higher education.

Reed is one of our exemplars of a stellar liberal arts institutions. How
many other disciplines came together as you would like?

>Finally, there is a reason that the folk wisdom you quote includes both
>1. Jack of all trades AND ...
>2. Master of none.
>If you omit the second part I believe you also must give up any criticism
>of such a person. There is absolutely nothing wrong, that I can see,
>with knowing something about a lot of things.

I agree, John. There is also nothing wrong that I can see with being so
enamored of art, or music, or physics, or carpentry that one wants to
become a master carpenter or eats,drinks, and sleeps physics or music, and
neglects a few of the other trades to make room for that mastery.

Wasn't it Pope--we remember him from freshman comp, right?--who said, "A
little learning is a dangerous thing"?

We have such words as "dilletante" (sp?) to describe that Jack of all

John, the first two years of the US college curriculum, which force the
high school graduate to endure two more years of "general education" when
he or she is often hungering for skill, competence, mastery, and a sense
of the identity that comes from immersion in work and a role, those years
are for thousands a disaster area.

Steve Eskow


Steve Eskow <>

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