Saturday, February 04, 2012

Random thought #564

Why is it that we fight so hard for students to major in our academic disciplines? (I'm no angel: as a constant salesperson for our department, I'm as guilty as anyone else.) I suspect it's because we feel we need "our own students" to justify our departments' existences. No matter how many students from other areas count on us to teach them skills they need in their disciplines, if don't have a few majors of our own, we become "no more than" a "service" department, a group of contingent faculty, our positions conditioned on the whim of curricular programs elsewhere on campus.

Old habits die hard.

What would our schools look like if we did away with disciplinary and departmental divisions, did away with traditional majors, and did all we could to foster interdisciplinarity and academic interactivity across campus? Not only would our students live a richer and more robust learning experience, with realistic integration of ideas at every turn...but we'd all be a lot less territorial and hoggish about our limited resources.

Just a thought.


Meredith said...

Chaos! Anarchy!

The unknown...

Ah, that's the real concern.

Jean Marie said...

I think I tell the students about the advantages (from my point of view) to them for taking more math and being good at it. I don't think I've proselytized much for becoming a math major. But math hasn't treated me very well; I am a teacher/student-advocate first and mathematician second.

I always tell students applying to graduate school to look seriously at the personalities of the people they will be working with and to ask themselves if these people treat them well, make them feel good about themselves, and will be supportive if things don't go well. Something I've not found much of. And to think about what they really just are interested in and like doing -- something I have neglected.

Ashley said...

You should read some books about Black Mountain College. My arts 310 is all about that place. You might like some of there ideas and how the college was run.

DocTurtle said...

@Ashley: Thanks for the tip! There are a number of other schools that still exist that eschew such divisions, and I think they provide very healthy learning environments. I don't think UNC Asheville can make the transition overnight, but I think it's a worthwhile model to keep in mind.