June 25, 2013
Bonjour! Today I really want to understand the historical narrative of disciplinary education in Europe and America, so I re-read and took extensive notes on Disciplinarity: An Introduction by David R. Shumway and Ellen Messer-Davidow. It outlines how the scholastic education evolved into the specialized and professionalized disciplinary education that I am a part of today.
Why isn’t the history of the university the first thing that you learn in college? It is pertinent to every area of academia, and if intellectuals understood the history of their discipline it would help show intellectuals that our existing educational system is incredibly young and unstable. Instead this information is ignored. Students are blindly brought up in the disciplinary education. They see Harvard and Yale as proof that these institutions have been around for all of time. No questions are asked.
If there is one thing that history shows us, it is that nothing is ever truly stable. Empires, Kingdoms, boundaries of political states, our environment, love affairs, friendships and knowledge: they all change. Whenever an idea seems to be at its conclusion, new information (or sometimes old information) comes into consideration and everything starts anew. Society resists this fact of life, and hides from it. No one wants to admit that everything must change because change and the unknown are terrifying. However, ignoring our expectations of situations and blindly continuing on with our disciplinary education is dangerous. I am not blaming our society for turning their heads to disregard the consequences that follow when if you deeply consider the impacts of change in the university. It takes a particular kind of mind to approach these issues, for they usually become quite personal and reactive.
This can easily be seen in how institutions of higher education are reacting towards the rise of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. This idea threatens academia, and the egos of the professors and researchers. It forces the intellectuals to come out from hiding behind their disciplinary departments and interact with both the non-intellectual community and the other sections of academia. Change is upsetting and usually forces people to expose their weaknesses.
I’ll leave you with a fragment from Heraclitus: “You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.”