Looking over the impressive resume and interests of an academic—an acquaintance of a friend— in the applied sciences, the following occurred to me: In the world of the boffins and scientists of research and development (R&D), “multidisciplinary” education is the equivalent of “multiculturalism.”
“Multidisciplinary” education seems to be the buzzword—key to showing how “relevant” and contextualized you and your field of endeavor really are in a hip and evolving world.
My suspicion was reinforced while watching a C-Span segment in which a leading female head of department at MIT engineering waxed fat about what fun she was having designing “work spaces” that “brought together” just about every other department in the world (social work, education).
The aim of all the fun? Coaxing America’s lazy kids into thinking of science and math as fun. (A better, more-sustainable approach would be to teach America’s already dumbed-down, increasingly dispensable secondary-school students that most things worth learning are never plain fun, but are a function of effort and practice, i.e. a good deal of rote. The fun comes when the tough stuff has been mastered.)
Naturally, engineer and physician will collaborate in the design of a prosthetic limb. But the trend observed goes beyond preaching about practical cooperation in bringing beneficial products to markets, something that already occurs spontaneously in the market.
Like “multiculturalism,” the “multidisciplinary” concept is an ideological construct designed to bring about “change.”
What kind of change?
“Intellectual disciplines,” historian Keith Windschuttle has written, “were founded in ancient Greece and gained considerable impetus from the work of Aristotle who identified and organized a range of subjects into orderly bodies of learning. … The history of Western knowledge shows the decisive importance of the structuring of disciplines. This structuring allowed the West to benefit from two key innovations: the systematization of research methods, which produced an accretion of consistent findings; and the organization of effective teaching, which permitted a large and accumulating body of knowledge to be transmitted from one generation to the next.” (The Killing of History, Keith Windschuttle, Encounter, pp. 247-250)
The concept of the intellectual discipline is inseparable from Western canon and curriculum.
Yet this has been the aim—and, arguably, the signal achievement—of the postmodern tradition: to completely dismantle one of the greatest achievements of Western Civilization: the intellectual discipline. (This is why your fun-addicted kids “study” not history, but so-called “social sciences” or “cultural studies” in secondary and tertiary educational institutions.)
Is “Multidisciplinary” yet another one of those clever catchphrases that couches a contempt for the traditional Western notion of an intellectual disciplines?
UPDATE (Aug. 30): CHINA. I’m always amazed that Americans would call China militant, when it is the US that is starting and conducting wars all over the world. Our esteemed reader below sounds a little like Donald Trump, which is not a good thing.