04 May 2009

Say good-bye to the university

Mark C. Taylor, of Columbia University, argues that we should End the University as We Know It.

David Koyzis, of Redeemer University College, has this to say of it:

While he may be guilty of a certain degree of rhetorical overkill, I heartily approve of his emphasis on what might be called interdisciplinary renewal within the university

And quotes this passage from Taylor's article:

There can be no adequate understanding of the most important issues we face when disciplines are cloistered from one another and operate on their own premises. It would be far more effective to bring together people working on questions of religion, politics, history, economics, anthropology, sociology, literature, art, religion and philosophy to engage in comparative analysis of common problems. As the curriculum is restructured, fields of inquiry and methods of investigation will be transformed.

Taylor describes, in significant bullet points, what's wrong with graduate education. For example, our conception of the university is rooted in Kant's notion "that universities should 'handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.' "

Unfortunately this mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization.... And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations.

How Duns Scotus used citations. Interesting, perhaps. The subject of a Time Magazine article maybe. But important enough to show up someday in a peer-reviewed journal article?

Of course, as a libertarian, I can't agree with some of his solutions, especially as they entail bringing about the sort of university he wants by (more) government fiat decisions. But that's another matter. I'd prefer to see interdisciplinary studies universities popping up like.... I was going to say, "Like McDonald's". But the fast food connotation is thoroughly objectionable.

In another interesting article, Stanley Fish writes on God Talk.

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About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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