Interesting article on Stanford from ‘The New Yorker‘.
Interdisciplinary education. This is the philosophy now promoted at the various schools at Stanford—engineering, business, medicine, science, design—which encourages students from diverse majors to come together to solve real or abstract problems. The goal is to have them become what are called “T-shaped” students, who have depth in a particular field of study but also breadth across multiple disciplines. Stanford hopes that the students can also develop the social skills to collaborate with people outside their areas of expertise.
The United States has “two types of college education that are in conflict with each other,” One is “theclassic liberal-arts model—four years of relative tranquility in which students are free to roam through disciplines, great thoughts, and great works with endless options and not much of a rationale.” The second is more utilitarian: “A college degree is expected to lead to a job, or at least to admission to a graduate or professional school.” The best colleges divide the first two years into introductory courses and the last two into the study of a major, all the while trying to expose students to “a broad range of disciplines and modes of thought.” Students, he declared, are not broadly educated, not sufficiently challenged to “search to know.” Instead, universities ask them to serve “the public, to work directly on solutions in a multidisciplinary way.”
The long-term value of an education is to be found not merely in the accumulation of knowledge or skills but in the capacity to forge fresh connections between them, to integrate different elements from one’seducation and experience and bring them to bear on new challenges and problems. . . . Yet we were struck by how little attention most departments and programs have given to cultivating this essential capacity. We were also surprised, and somewhat chagrined, to discover how infrequently some of our students exercise it. For all their extraordinary energy and range, many of the students we encountered lead curiously compartmentalized lives, with little integration between the different spheres of their experience.