Saturday, August 30, 2014

On University Requirements

I have a new piece at The Pope Center in which I suggest the English major should have outside requirements, like the sciences require.

In fact, I would go farther and suggest that all of the humanities should have similar requirements as those I recommend for English. English and literary studies, art, history, and philosophy should all have requirements outside their fields, and those requirements should be drawn from the social sciences -- particularly economics and anthropology, but also sociology -- and psychology. It is important that the humanities be rooted in the most recent theories of psychology and sociology rather than being 50 years behind.

Along those lines, I think the social sciences should require philosophy, history, anthropology, psychology, and biology. The social sciences are suspended between the humanities and the natural sciences, as much in the realm of understanding as knowledge, and the education of our social sciences should reflect that.

And while we're at it, we should also have some social science and humanities requirements for the sciences. It is important that they be familiar with these things so they are thinking in more complex, emergentest ways. Of course, given the typical requirements of our universities, this is hardly a problem. However, it would be nice to have a set of classes that are more focused on the natural sciences.

One could argue that I am just suggesting that students ought to have a "well-rounded" liberal education. But really, I am arguing more than that. We need to provide an education in which we are quite explicit about what it is in each of these other fields that can benefit majors in their own fields. We are talking about interdisciplinary tools that can really open up new possibilities of research. But we're going to have to train people in each of the disciplines to provide exactly that kind of education in each of those fields.
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