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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: April 1, 2005
Latest Update: April 1, 2005

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Index of Topics on Site Interdependence of Disciplines
within the Liberal Arts Tradition
I started out with these couple of paragraphs in talking about Wolfowitz and World Bank Presidency. I soon realized I'd gone so far back to build relevance that I was really talking aboaut the traditional liberal arts education, long neglected in career planning and training. There is so much information floating about the world today that none of us can keep up with it. But increasingly, that information is being streamlined to the production of immediate technology and production.

For example, on p. B 1 of the NY Times there is an article, A Blow to Computer Science Research, by John Markoff. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has cut back severely on its grants to universities for what they call "blue sky," or "pure" research. That means research aimed at pushing back the bounds of discovery and without any particular agenda to come up with a saleable or useable product. We call it basic research in the academy. Now, long before we have really learned to push the limits on the use of technology for ordinary folks, and the most effective ways of bringing those ordinary folks up to an understanding of how to fit all that technology reasonably and without chaos into their everyday lives, the government is cutting back on the kind of research that often consists of just tinkering with things to see what we can do.

Testing, with an emphasis on learning the "right" or the "tester's" answer to predictable questions based on knowledge that's been around for a long time, also limits our opportunities to just tinker with ideas, with theories, with objects in our environment to see what comes up. Sometimes the most important facet of education is not in the ultimate "answer," but in the very process of that tinkering. Perhaps that point was best illustrated by Congress', the Federal Courts', and the President's open statements in the Schiavo case of who shall determine and under what authority how individuals may end their lives and the lives of loved ones. Where I used to try to cover sociology, psychology, political science, philosophy, literature, law, Love !A, and gender, now I find myself having to add religion and theology to the mix. And I probably left some out, like technology and learning theory. This is the problem, as I see it, with breaking us off into disciplines. At the advanced graduate level there may be a need to break off small pieces of some disciplines for intensive study. But at the undergraduate and beginning graduate levels these fields are all interdependent. Physicists are learning that they must create advanced specialites in astrophysics AND particle physics. Fields that used to yield separate disciplines almost. If it's happening in Physics, where we come perhaps closest to being able to test theories empirically, then it's certainly going to happen when we move into the humanities and the social sciences.

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