Sunday, August 10, 2008
Thought on Interdisciplinarity in Light of the Olympics Gymnastics
The Chinese have a tradition of acrobatics, and the Russians have a tradition of ballet; both countries use their respective traditions as foundations for their gymnastics -- which is why their gymnastics teams are always so good. The American team, being typical Americans, are specialists in gymnastics. Thus, they are technically good, but quite often lack the flair needed to push a performance over the top. Specialization is great, and is a necessary aspect of a growing economy, but there comes a point when and where specialization-only reaches a brick wall. We see this in a lot of postmodern American and European art and literature, which is all about art and literature (since the artists and writers are specialists, they don't know anything else, and thus can't write about anything else). We see it in a lot of our attempts to solve complex problems with single disciplines, which is perhaps why we don't solve a lot of complex problems (we have the simple ones, like building cars, computers, and airplanes down pat). But we are not yet open to interdisciplinary approaches to much of anything. It perhaps does not help that interdisciplinary approaches are associated with Interdisciplinary Studies, which have been used as places where people who should not have even been allowed through the doors of a university can go when they fail out of underwater basket weaving, meaning nobody respects interdisciplinary studies, or interdisciplinary approaches. Which is a real shame, because interdisciplinarity is in fact difficult, and interdisciplinary studies should reflect that difficulty. In the meantime, other countries that are open to interdisciplinary approaches are going to take that advantage and use it. ONly if the U.S. continues to attract people from other countries will we remain ahead in the world.