होम Community College Review Defeating the Learned Ignoramus: Interdisciplinary Education

Defeating the Learned Ignoramus: Interdisciplinary Education

यह पुस्तक आपको कितनी अच्छी लगी?
फ़ाइल की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
पुस्तक की गुणवत्ता का मूल्यांकन करने के लिए यह पुस्तक डाउनलोड करें
डाउनलोड की गई फ़ाइलों की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
Community College Review
December, 1982
PDF, 777 KB
Conversion to is in progress
Conversion to is failed

अपनी समीक्षा पोस्ट करने के लिए साइन इन करें या साइन अप करें
आप पुस्तक समीक्षा लिख सकते हैं और अपना अनुभव साझा कर सकते हैं. पढ़ूी हुई पुस्तकों के बारे में आपकी राय जानने में अन्य पाठकों को दिलचस्पी होगी. भले ही आपको किताब पसंद हो या न हो, अगर आप इसके बारे में ईमानदारी से और विस्तार से बताएँगे, तो लोग अपने लिए नई रुचिकर पुस्तकें खोज पाएँगे.
Defeating the Learned Ignoramus:
Interdisciplinary Education
Philip A. Sbaratta

Interdisciplinary courses have traditionally suffered from a bad
press. One of the primary occupational arguments posits that combining more than one discipline in a course weakens each of the disciplines. Moreover, students are perceived as lacking adequate liberal
education necessary to inform the students' understanding of the connections among the related disciplines. Often the consequence of
these views is that humanities enrollment continues to decline. For
students who do enroll in individual courses in individual disciplines,
the dicsiples remain discreet entities; and students rarely have the
opportunity to discover what one set of ideas has to do with another.
At North Shore Community College, as in many two-year institutions across the country, a distinctive feature is the prevalance of two
year career programs, offering little chance for students to explore
areas unrelated to a specific career. Even if a choice were available,
many of these students shy away from courses perceived as having
limited pragmatic value. Students in career programs comprise 65
percent of North Shore's student population.
Among the liberal arts faculty was a strong desire to tap this
market, not only to fill a course but also to counter the vocationalschool effect of programs of study heavily emphasizing career training. Myron Marty articulated the problem in his essay "Work, Jobs,
and the Language of the Humanities":
I regard it as a given, first, that a curriculum or degree program is unbalanced and incomplete if it does not help students: a) to find and
make sense out of relationships between their life, work, and jobs . .;
b) to see themselves and their society from different angles, different
times, different places, and through different eyes; c) to expand and
refine their ability to read, write, and speak; d) to reflect on the meaning of their doings, habits, and beliefs; e) and to respond with both
reason and feeling to t; heir natural and man-made environments.'
'Myron Marty, "Work, Jobs, and the Language of the Humanities," in Strengthening Humanities in Community Colleges, ed. Roger Yarrington, AACJC - National
Assembly Report, 1979, p. 58.

Downloaded from crw.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 15, 2015

It was clear that the choice was either to wait with outstretched
hands until students saw the light or to take action and provide a new
option to attract students to disciplines and subject matter they
would have ordinarily avoided.
Interdisciplinary education has attracted the interest of many
faculty as a way of transcending traditional discipline barriers. But
at North Shore, interdisciplinary curricula had a rather shaky
launching. Although faculty bemoaned students' inability to make a
cohesive whole from their educational experiences, decried falling
enrollments in art, music, and literature, and became horrified at the
increase of computer courses, faculty were nevertheless uneasy about
giving up turf. Could a psychology professor teach history? Could a
literature professor teach music; could a scientist explore ethics? One
solution seemed to be team-teaching - an arrangement which often
works better on paper than in the classroom. Matching compatible
faculty is no mean feat. Planning curricula, scheduling, and grading
in team-taught courses requires more energy than most situations.
Despite these problems, an occasional team-taught course was offered. As time passed, the hiatus between team-taught courses grew;
soon they simply disappeared.
A more innovative solution was to create a Department of Interdisciplinary Studies. However, one does not wave a magic wand and
create departments. The impetus was a core of faculty interested in
breaking down barriers of traditional disciplines and creating bridges
of learning. A general notice was sent to all faculty inviting them to a
planning meeting to establish a new department that would develop,
promote, and monitor interdisciplinary curricula.
The first meeting allowed the airing of diverse ideas about interdisciplinary education. Some wanted to create a specific focus, others
wanted a self-contained program, still others wanted team-teaching
structures. Common to all views, however, was agreement on the intrinsic worth of reconstructing into unconventional designs the vast
body of knowledge we offer students. Rather than deal with program
design, the faculty initially developed a statement of philosophy to
guide future directions of interdisciplinary education:
In this era of specialization, efforts must be made to end the fragmentation of self and society. We must generate a more holistic approach to
course content and teaching methods, in order to broaden and deepen
our students' knowledge of their past and better prepare them for survival and growth in the future. We are convinced that the necessary integration of knowledge and experience in education can best be accomplished for some students through an interdisciplinary framework.
Through curricula organized around themes, ideas, issues, and
problems, students will acquire the means to a higher quality of life.

With this manifesto, the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
was born. In effect, the faculty had echoed Alfred North Whitehead's
view of education: "The anithesis between a technical and liberal
education is fallacious. There can be no adequate technical education
which is not liberal, and no liberal education which is not technical:
Downloaded from crw.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 15, 2015

that is, no education which does not impart both technique and intellectual vision."2
The formation of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies has
given interdisciplinary courses a home. These courses are now the
legitimate off-spring of this new department rather than the bastards
of traditional academic disciplines. Affiliated with traditional
academic departments, faculty are comprised of individuals committed to interdiscipinary education. In effect, members of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies have dual academic citizenship.
Within a departmental framework, a course is evaluated on its merit
as an interdisciplinary offering. At the same time, faculty, as
representatives of traditional disciples, scrutinize content of interdisciplinary courses to protect the academic integrity of specific
The result has been the stimulation of an array of interdisciplinary
curriculum using a variety of organizational and methodological
strategies: team-teaching, multi-discipline courses taught by one individual, thematic courses, and discipline combinations. The following are general descriptions of interdisciplinary courses at North
Artistic Vision: An Introduction to Art, Music, and Literature
Designed by a member of the English Department, Artistic Vision
introduces students to art, music and literature by focusing on
their common principles of subject, function, medium, organization, and style. Students read literature, look at the visual arts,
and listen to music. The instructor provides coordinating lectures
to allow students to perceive commonalities among the art forms.
Introduction to the Study of the Future
Designed by a sociologist, the course describes the nature of
"futurism," examining the ideas of futuristic thinkers. By exploring global interdependency, students discuss major problems that
may be facing the world for the next 10-50 years. The role of
technology and analysis of human values are an integral part of
this discussion. Finally, students consider strategies for personal
and collective survival in a rapidly changing world.
The Arts: Pathways to Perception
Designed by three members of the Cultural Arts Department, this
course integrates music, dance, and the visual arts. In addition to
lectures and demonstrations, students participate in the art forms
being studied. The course emphasizes the relationships among sensory perceptions, modes of knowing, and artistic expression. The
aim is to show students that we know things in several different
ways and that art contributes significantly to our reason for being.
Your Lifestyle Through Food and Nutrition
Designed by a biologist, the course considers nutrition's
relationship to psychological and physiological well-being. Students study nutrients, physiological roles in metabolism, food
sources, and effects of deficient or excessive intake. The influence
2Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims ofEducatin and Other Essays (New York: MacMillan, 1929), p. 51.
Downloaded from crw.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 15, 2015

of social habits on diets and food habits is discussed. In addition,
students deal with obesity, coronary heart disease, alcoholism,
food fads, food quackery, and food additives as elements related to
The Future of Male-Female Relationships
Designed by a member of the Behavioral Science Department and
the Chair of the Humanities Division, the course focuses on changing sex roles and the effects on human sexuality, the family and
the workplace. Some issues discussed are male-female role identification, sexual preferences, control of human reproductive
processes, and power in the family and society.
American Studies: Literature and the Arts in New England
Designed by a member of the English Department, the course has
four modules: prose, poetry, art, and architecture. Using New
England as a frame of reference, the course includes writers, artists, and architects who have created in the New England milieu.
Students take frequent field trips which inform their appreciation
of the New England environment and the art, literature, and
architecture it has produced.
Search For Self: Beliefs and Images
Designed by a member of the Behavioral Science Department, the
course examines how our beliefs are influenced by various images
of self, society, and the natural world. Some specific concentrations are 1) the quest for identify through religious and psychological models 2) popular culture and its heroes as mirrors of
our self-image, 3) scientific and technological images - people as
machines, 4) artistic and prophetic visions, 5) political belief
systems (Marxism, socialism, capitalism), and 6) beliefs and images of ancient and modern astronomy.
The Sporting Life
Designed by two sociologists. The Sporting Life considers the important role sport has had in the lives of humans and their
societies. With increased leisure, sports' role has had dramatic impact particularly in post-industrial society. Particular attention is
paid to cultural meanings and values in sporting behavior,
emotional and recreational features of different sports, symbolic
meanings in sports (heroes, myths, rituals), and the economics of
The Philosophy of Science
Designed by a member of the Philosophy Department, the course
emphasizes the logical structure of scientific inquiry and the
ethical implications of that structure. The course presents major
scientific theories from an historical context. Students develop an
awareness of ethical considerations implicit in a rapidly changing
world produced by scientific and technological discoveries.
Coordinated Studies: American Literature and History
Designed by a member of the English Department and History
Department, the course explores the events, ideas, people, and
Downloaded from crw.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 15, 2015

literature which have shaped American society. Instructors coordinate material so that historical events and literature are melded
into a cohesive whole. History provides a context for the literature,
and literature provides a creative dimension in understanding of
Film and Fiction
Designed by a member of the English Department, the course
focuses on five literary works and their film adaptations. After
discussing criteria to evaluate fiction and film, students compare
treatments, identifying elements special to each medium. Through
comparative analysis students develop a particular apreciation of
the effect form has on content.
Criminals in Literature
Designed by a member of the English Department, the course uses
literary works about characters who commit crimes. Students
compare a wide variety of works by examining key questions.
What is a criminal? What motivates these characters to commit
crimes? How do authors express their attitudes toward crime? Can
an entire society be considered criminal? Whether examining the
character of Macbeth or Huckleberry Finn or the Godfather, students discover how literature serves as a vehicle for the examination of the psychology of the criminal and the sociology of criminal
Cultural Roots: Images and Ideas
Designed by a member of the English Department, the course examines in depth selected examples of the creative power of
Western culture in relation to the times that produced them. For
example, a curriculum design includes: 1) Theatre of Dionysus as
an expression of Hellenic intellectual and artistic activity; 2) Chartres Cathedral as a political and spiritual center during the social
transformation of Europe in the late 12th and early 13th centuries;
3) Leonardo da Vinci as representative of the tumultuous surge of
creativity during the Renaissance.
Soundscape of the Psyche
Designed by a member of the Music Department, the course
creates awareness of our acoustic environment and its effects on
body, emotions, and psyche. Students consider the symbolic and
psychological uses of sound, the development of sounds in different
cultures, and how music shapes our acoustic environment.
Surviving the Twentieth Century: Rethinking War and Its
Developed by a member of the Behavioral Science Department, the
course looks at the twentieth century dilemma of nuclear
cataclysm through the lens of war in the modern world. Major activities include a variety of guest lecturers on topics such as the
causes of war, perpetual Cold War, the madness of war, nuclear
disarmament, Third-Fourth-Fifth World policy.

Downloaded from crw.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 15, 2015

Not all courses are offered each semester; however, interdisciplinary courses have enjoyed consistent popularity. A significant
test of curriculum modification is healthy enrollment. Interdisciplinary courses have elective status and are not required in any
program. They compete in the educational marketplace where it is a
buyer's market. Table 1 gives an overview of enrollment patterns.

Fall Spring Fall Spring Fall Spring
1979 1980 1980 1981 1981 1982

Artistic Vision
Introduction to the Study
of the Future
The Arts: Pathways to
Your Lifestyle through
Food & Nutrition
The Future of Male-Female
Amerian Studies: Literature &
the Arts in New England
Search for Self: Beliefs & Images
The Sporting Life
The Philosophy of Science
Coordinated Studies:
American Literature & History
Film and Fiction
Criminals in Literature
Cultural Roots
Soundscape of the Psyche
Surviving the Twentieth Century















(new course)


(new course)



(new course)

The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at North Shore has
built a common ground for faculty from a number of disciplines to
convene. This, in itself, is valuable, for the insularity of faculty from
separate departments, who generally meet and talk only to each
other, dissolves. The interdisciplinary format allows expression of
special interests, talents, and expertise which do not fit the
traditional discipline mold. Certainly, it is no surprise that as human
beings and academics we lead interdisciplinary lives. Many of us have
pursued and studied more than one area. Although we have chosen a
particular concentration, our interests and training have not
diminished. As Ralph Ross points out, "Subjects are not wholes from
the world to be studied in isolation. Nor are they experiences of a
special kind with no relation to experiences of other kinds."3
3Ralph Ross, "The Nature of the Transdisciplinary: An Elementary Statement," in
Interdisciplinary Teaching, ed. Alvifi M. White (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1981), p.

Downloaded from crw.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 15, 2015

The interdisciplinary structure is a forum for faculty creativity. It
acts as an antidote for the "learned ignoramus," Jose Orgega y Gasset's label for the specialist confined by the myopia of his specialty.4
Interdisciplinary courses are samplers allowing exposure to ideas and
content about which students formerly have professed disinterest. Interdisciplinary options, however, are not education as smorgasbord;
instead concepts and materials are shaped in new ways. One of the
significant by-products of interdisciplinary courses has been
promoting further study. For example, students having completed
Artistic Vision or Pathways to Perception, have enrolled in
traditional courses in art, music, or literature. Students discover that
they want to know more. And isn't this the fundamental precept of

4Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (New York: Norton, 1957).

Marty, Myron. "Work, Jobs, and the Language of the Humanities." Strengthening
Humanities in Community Colleges. Ed. Roger Yarrington, AACJC National
Assembly Report, 1979.
Ortega y Gasset, Jose. The Revolt of the Masses. New York: Norton, 1957.
Ross, Ralph. "The Nature of the Transdisciplinary: An Elementary Statement." Interdisciplinary Teaching. Ed. Alvin M. White. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1981.
Whitehead, Alfred North. The Aims of Educatibn and Other Essays. New York: Macmillan, 1929.

Philip A.. Sbaratta is Division Chairman, English and Communications, North
Shore Community College, Beverly, MA.

Downloaded from crw.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 15, 2015