17 November 2010

Defending the liberal arts education

Genome Biology published an open letter to the president of the State University of New York At Albany, George M. Philip. Mr. Philip (not Dr. Philip, apparently, somewhat unusual for someone in academia) decided to cut five departments in his university: French, Italian, Classics, Russian and Theater Arts.

The letter, by Gregory Petsko of Brandeis, hits with the full force of a body blow. It’s an astonishing piece of rhetoric. It takes apart Mr. Philip’s decision at the seams, then rips out the stuffing.

I wanted to echo the central theme. At many different levels, universities are often being encouraged now to throw their weight behind science and engineering. It’s critical that they continue to support all the disciplines.

I wrote before about how valuable the undergraduate classes in acting were to me as a graduate student and beyond.

Although I’m not taking formal classes now, the crafts of typography and design are heavily influencing one of my favourite projects, the Better Posters blog: my quest to make conference hallways more beautiful and more effective.

I currently have my neurobiology course in a learning community with a philosophy of mind course, on the idea that the two approaches are mutually enriching.

Universities, and particularly faculty, are supposed to be collegial. It’s not collegial to devalue the scholarship of other disciplines, or to think that one is somehow easier or less valuable than others. Universities are supposed to be places that value scholarship and knowledge of all sorts.

1 comment:

Calandreya said...