Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Deconstructing the liberal arts curriculum

I have been carrying on a lively exchange with a couple of colleagues who favor dismanteling the current liberal arts curriculum. On the one hand, they oppose the reduction of liberal arts core requirements, since this would compromise their own investment in the core curriculum. But on the other hand, they are opposed to the traditional division of subjects along the lines of distinct "disciplines" corresponding to traditional "departments." The reason they offer for this opposition is that it does not do justice to the "inter-disciplinary" nature of knowledge. My own hunch is that two related concerns are more likely what really animate their opposition: first, their postmodern commitments, which inevitably tend toward deconstruction; and second, their desire to teach philosophical issues (what they would call the "meta-" issues) rather than what is traditionally proper to their own disciplines. In any case, the lively discussions we have been having may be followed, for anyone interested, at the following links:

  • An exchange on whether the liberal arts core should be deconstructed in the college curriculum (Part 1) [Note: this post focuses on the question whether the contention that curricular disciplines are cultural constructs means that the traditional distinctions between curricular courses and majors has no basis in fact. I cite Herman Dooyeweerd's work for the negative.]
  • An exchange on deconstructing the liberal arts curriculum (Part 2) [Note: this post focuses on the question whether an "interdisciplinary" approach to the curriculum is justified by the assumption that there are no irreducible aspects of experience or reality that serve as the basis for distinct subjects and majors. I cite Herman Dooyeweerd's work for the negative.]
  • An exchange on deconstructing the liberal arts curriculum (Part 3) [Note: this post focuses on the question whether there are irreducible dimensions of experience or reality, which serve as the basis for dividing the curriculum into distinct subjects or majors. I cite the work of Herman Dooyeweerd for the affirmative.]

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