The New York Times published an interesting opinion piece saying its time for major changes in academia. Dr. Mark Taylor of Columbia University’s Religion Department says tenure must be abolished, replaced with 7 year renewable contracts. He wants a problem based curriculum structured by themes like “water”, “information”, and “energy”. He claims his fractured department is typical of academia. There’s no overlap, rather intense niche specialization.
Dr. Taylor’s principal lament is that some of the “best students” are studying irrelevant Medieval literature. Is this not what we expect from the Humanities? I was there once. My recollection is that when you’re not delving into the Canon, you’re deconstructing comic books, or reinventing Rimbaud as Jim Morisson’s muse. This is to be expected in the Humanities.
The sciences are problem-based by definition. Social relevance is rewarded. This is reflected by the grant making process and “requests for proposals (RFPs)” that motivate the natural sciences economy. Science journals are not obscure, as Dr Taylor claims for his journals of religion. It could be argued that Science and Nature drive media coverage of the sciences, hence public awareness.
Most of Dr. Taylor’s suggestions for reinventing academia seem fundamentally sound. A theme-based curriculum is particularly exciting. I believe the implementation would create a dynamic learning environment. However, the problems that concern him seem typical of the Liberal Arts. So, the question is: would academic restructuring make the Humanities more relevant?
What these people need is a chemistry class. LOL. Just kidding. I love the liberal arts. Wish I had more in high school.
End the University as We Know It
By MARK C. TAYLOR
Published: April 27, 2009
If higher education is to thrive, colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated and completely restructured.