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Water as an opportunity to re-invent graduate education

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Mark C. Taylor, the chairman of the religion department at Columbia, has an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times on the future of university education in general and, more specifically, graduate programs. Particularly interesting is his call to “abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs”. The example he chooses — water.

2. Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed. It is possible to imagine a broad range of topics around which such zones of inquiry could be organized: Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water.
Consider, for example, a Water program. In the coming decades, water will become a more pressing problem than oil, and the quantity, quality and distribution of water will pose significant scientific, technological and ecological difficulties as well as serious political and economic challenges. These vexing practical problems cannot be adequately addressed without also considering important philosophical, religious and ethical issues. After all, beliefs shape practices as much as practices shape beliefs.
A Water program would bring together people in the humanities, arts, social and natural sciences with representatives from professional schools like medicine, law, business, engineering, social work, theology and architecture. Through the intersection of multiple perspectives and approaches, new theoretical insights will develop and unexpected practical solutions will emerge.

Read the full article here.

Written by Patrick

April 30th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

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