Interdisciplinearity LO22750

Steve Eskow (
Mon, 27 Sep 1999 16:13:44 -0600

Replying to LO22739 --


>I think one of the issues here is not disciplinarity vs
>interdisciplinarity or the permutations. Rather, I believe that those in
>liberal studies, the humanities, have failed to make a case, even to
>themselves, for the importance of these disciplines other than providing
>a softening of the harsh exteriors of the strucutures built by the more
>technologically driven bodies of knowledge.

I think this hits the mark.

And perhaps because of that failure calls for interdisciplinearity sound
like you're going to mix irrelevant--and, to many, boring--disciplines
together and come up a tasty intellectual dish. To mix a few metaphors.

Here's a little bit of Alfred North Whitehead, from SCIENCE AND THE MODERN
WORLD, circa 1925.

"There is no easy single solution of the practical difficulties of
education. We can, however, guide ourselves by a certain simplicity in its
general theory. The student should concentrate within a limited field."

Note well, Tom. Over and over again Whitehead made this point: don't teach
too much, teach what you teach well and deeply, education needs depth as
well as breadth...

"Such concentration should include all practical and intellectual
acquirements requisite for that concentration."

Perhaps this is a crucial pedagogic concept: you don't mix disciplines
aimlessly, but include in your "concentration" all the practical and
intellectual requirement: Dewey's "interfusion." Want to be a nurse: you
need to know anatomy and physiology as well as bed making and giving
injections, and you need to study the psychology of the patient, and the
sociology of the family as it impinges on aftercare...the concentration
lending relevance and meaning to the rest of the curriculum.

Whiehead also wanted to inclulcate in students "the habit of art."

He said: "When you understand all about the sun and all about the
atmosphere and all about the rotation of the earth, you may still miss the
radiance of the concerns more than sunsets. A factory,
with its machinery, its community of operatives, its social service to the
general population, its dependence upon organizing and designing genius,
its potentialities as a source of wealth to the holders of its stock is an
organism exhibiting a variety of vividwalues. What we want to train is the
habit of apprehending such an organization in its completeness."



Steve Eskow <>

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