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Teaching Innovation and Creativity  

Hi all-

This is an interesting post which concludes by saying that humanities are better than sciences at teaching innovation. I would invite some discussion of the claims in the argument. When Carleton started its campaign to developing funding for an arts building, one of the ideas that was promoted was that in the arts students learned to be creative. I argued that students also learn to be creative in the sciences- but I'm not sure I carried the day. This article doesn't suggest that science is not innovative- it just claims that we don't teach that aspect of our science early. If true, this may be part of the reason that student opt out of science (see Talking about Leaving by Seymore et al). If not true, it seems worthwhile to make the case. And perhaps, this is an argument that will resonate with those who have not yet bit on the need to engage students in learning the process of science in their courses.

This article was widely circulated. If we don't agree with the claims we might want to write a rebuttal.



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Thanks to all for the interesting discussion. Peter Copeland suggested a paper for Liberal Education might find the right audience. My thought was that such a paper could

- stress that creativity and innovation are taught across the curriculum (I agree with the comments that arguing about who is best at this is neither productive nor relavent)

- give examples of how this is done in the sciences and draws from this article for examples from humanities

- acknowledges that this isn't true for all science or humanities classes and stresses the need for engaged learning

- and possibly - talks about common misconceptions regrading the nature of science among students and how those are on occasion reinforced in science classes

I'm not the one to take the lead on writing this up, but I'd love to see you all move forward.



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This discussion refers to Tomorrows Professor Msg. #1019 How is Innovation Taught? - On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy

I'm seeking either permission to post the message or a link to it on their site. More shortly.


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This post was edited by Ayumi Tachida on Jul, 2013
Here is the original article.

From: Rick Reis
Date: April 27, 2010 10:59:55 AM CDT
To: tomorrows-professor@mailman.stanford.edu
Subject: TP Msg. #1019 How is Innovation Taught? - On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy

To sum up, it is not that humanities disciplines are more innovative than their scientific counterparts: it is simply that students are required to practice innovative thinking earlier on in their studies. Though there is a great difference in outcome between, say, a close reading of Balzac's Père Goriot and the development of a new software operating system, both rely on similar cognitive processes. And students will be exposed to these processes more often in humanities than in science or engineering classes.


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The posting below is an important article that looks at the central role the humanities play in developing innovative thinking. It is by Dan Edelstein, assistant professor of French at Stanford University, and is from the Fall, Winter 2010 issue of Liberal Education, Volume 96, Number 1. Liberal Education is a publication of the Association of American Colleges and Universities [http://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation/index.cfm] Copyright © 2010, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis
UP NEXT: Mobil Learning

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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How is Innovation Taught? - On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy

Longtime fans of the New Yorker will remember Michael Maslin's 1999 cartoon, in which a theater director opens the curtains to ask, "Is there a doctor of literature in the house?" Few funnier incongruities could be staged than calling an English professor to the rescue. PhD graduates in the humanities, after all, have long been known by prospective in-laws as "the wrong kind of doctor." And new interpretations of The Tempest are unlikely ever to save lives.

When carried to its logical, curricular conclusions, however, this healthy skepticism about academic self-importance can start to erode the foundations of American higher education. In the face of limited resources, administrators and policy makers are urged to invest more in science, engineering, and technology programs (Goldin and Katz 2008); meanwhile, liberal arts colleges are on their way to becoming an endangered species (goodbye, Antioch!). But what might look like an inevitable market trend could itself have negative economic effects. Indeed, I argue in this article that the humanities play a determining role in producing not only the "right" kind of doctor, but also the entrepreneurs, engineers, and designers that make the American economy so productive. The reason, I suggest, is that the humanities provide students with the best opportunities for learning how to innovate.

Valuing the humanities (or not)

Humanists do not like to talk about their trade in terms of, well, trade. One of the reasons that many of us pursue graduate degrees and academic careers is precisely to sidestep the corporate ladder. As last year's economic hurricane came crashing down on the ivory tower, however, it became impossible to ignore that even classes on Petrarch or Pétain could become victims of the Great Recession. And while we may prefer to think about our teaching and research as residing far from the madding crowd on Wall Street, we also owe ourselves and the public a forceful and convincing explanation of why the humanities are worth fighting-and paying-for.

The virtues of the humanities have hardly gone unsung. But their most eloquent champions usually point to lofty accomplishments, underscoring, for instance, the central role of the humanities in cultivating a sense of civic duty and citizenship, in enabling students to assess standards of human excellence, or in developing a sense of compassion for others. In a more practical vein, the skills that the humanities foster-such as a clear writing style, or rational analysis-bear only indirectly on professional success.

The contributions of the humanities to our consumerist society, by contrast, are rarely addressed, and for good reason: however one defines its ambitions, a liberal arts education grounded in the humanities is almost universally viewed as the opposite of vocational education. Taken to an extreme, this perspective led to Stanley Fish's declaration that "to the question 'of what use are the humanities?' the only honest answer is none whatsoever" (Fish 2008).

Remarkably, while representatives of the humanities shy away from, or flatly reject, arguments for their practical value, scholars who do not make their homes in traditional humanities disciplines are actively promoting them. The following three examples from entrepreneurship studies, science and engineering, and medicine illustrate this tendency.

First, the sociologist Mary Godwyn recently emphasized the commonalities between the goals of the liberal arts and of entrepreneurship: "Entrepreneurship is a tangible, practical manifestation of a liberal arts sensibility," she argued; "it has economic ramifications that extend the ability of the entrepreneur to engage with social discourse-to develop and express personal identity by influencing the larger social context" (Godwyn 2009). She further encouraged faculty and administrators "to integrate liberal arts and entrepreneurship courses," a suggestion that will probably fall on deaf ears in most humanities departments. But she also underscored how, for many scholars in the field, entrepreneurship is about more than just business. Like the humanities, it "involve[s] the study and analysis of what is [...] and, by identifying and evaluating opportunities for improvement, consciously contribute[s] to what will be." As we will see, this process of improving an existing situation is very similar to the lessons in innovation taught in humanities courses.

The second argument endorsing the importance of humanistic training comes from a physicist and an engineer. In a recent Forbes piece, Mark Mills and Julio Ottino (also the dean of Northwestern's Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering) made the case that the government funding agencies ought to support "whole-brain" research agendas, as opposed to the usual "left-brain" grant proposals. "Perhaps art, literature or music portfolios [should] become part of the science and engineering application processes," they propose. Their reason? "Innovation [...] requires the attributes of the humanities found in right-brain thinking: creativity, artistry, intuition, symbology, fantasy, emotions."

A final example comes complete with statistics showing measurable gains for students who spend more time in the right sides of their brain. Dr. Joel Katz, of Harvard Medical School, and his team had a group of first- and second-year students spend a little over half their weekly class time at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in classes and workshops on art, and the remaining hour in lecture, for a course on physical diagnosis (Naghshineh et al. 2008). A control group, meanwhile, attended the lectures but did not join in the museum visits. At the end of the eight-week term, the students who had participated in the art classes made 38 percent more positive observations than did the students in the control group.

Innovation: An anthropological perspective

The lasting disdain that many defenders of the humanities display toward utilitarian outcomes seems particularly misplaced in light of such recognition of their importance by other professionals. This importance becomes more understandable when one considers the extent to which ideas have replaced goods as the dynamo powering the economy. Indeed, while politicians still express hopes that America will continue to survive as a manufacturing nation, most economists, business people, and commentators seem to accept the fact that our economic future lies in patents, not products. For these analysts, it doesn't matter if China or other developing nations take over our manufacturing sector, so long as the Silicon Valleys of the country keep designing the goods. Accordingly, the greatest possible investments our government can make for our future prosperity are those that make our "population smarter and more innovative" (Friedman 2009).

But how exactly does one teach students to be "smarter and more innovative"? Innovation is perhaps the most difficult of all skills to impart. It cannot be learned merely by copying, nor are there any rules for its practice. It is simply something we hope students will pick up on their own, in or out of school. There is even a suspicion that universities can hinder innovative instincts: famously, neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates graduated from college.

My argument that humanities courses are better suited to provide students with lessons in innovation may seem to some as laughable as the New Yorker cartoon cited above. But I would ask them to pause and consider why certain cultures and nations are more innovative than others. As anthropologists have taught us, all cultures are in fact programmed to be predominantly conservative. Like our DNA, culture is transmitted from one generation to the next, but in a much more instable manner: there is always a risk that the myth, dance, text, or song will be transformed in the act of transmission. For this reason, as Greg Urban (2001) pointed out, many cultures have safeguards to limit the risk of mutations. Elders make children repeat poems or credos word for word; games have strict rules; and schools ensure that the knowledge of generations past does not disappear with the next.

Of course, some societies also value innovation. Alongside the traditional mode of cultural transmission, there is what Urban calls a modern one. Where in the traditional mode, cultural object x1 is meant to undergo as little change as possible in the act of transmission, thereby reproducing cultural object x2 in the next generation, the modern mode accepts that cultural object x will be transformed into cultural object y, with the assumption that x and y still bear a degree of resemblance. To put matters more plainly, to the traditional repetition of folk songs over centuries, modern music prefers the remix. To the adoption of traditional garb in tribal societies, modern societies oppose fashion (in French, la mode, to which the word "modern" is related).

It is somewhat misleading, in this regard, to speak of "modern societies," since no culture proceeds by tabula rasa, burning yesteryear's books and records (except perhaps in the case of a cultural revolution). Even for us moderns, conservation is necessary. We do not rewrite the Constitution every fifteen years; and most adults wince when their teenagers mutilate grammar. Moreover, innovation is itself a kind of conservation. The modernist poet T. S. Eliot reworked the Divine Comedy in The Waste Land; the old Volkswagen Beetle is still perceptible beneath the new. To innovate is thus less to abandon the past than it is to tinker, transform, and revise what came before.

Innovation in the academy

What anthropology shows us, then, is that innovation occurs on a continuum ranging from staunch traditionalism to avant-garde radicalism. Different cultural groups can themselves be situated along this continuum, depending on their degree of preference for a traditional versus modern mode of transmission. An anthropological perspective also highlights how the production of new artworks, commodities, or ideas can be thought of in terms of cultural transmission. This framework for understanding innovation is particularly helpful when we turn our gaze to the academy.

Like cultural groups, academic disciplines can also be characterized by their variable emphasis on reproducing versus transforming knowledge. Organic chemistry, for instance, might be described as a more "conservative" field than, say, neurobiology: because the former has been explored for much longer, the knowledge that one generation of organic chemists transmits to the next is rarely challenged by new findings. Graduate students in neurobiology, conversely, will almost certainly produce theories about the brain that contradict the assumptions of their professors. Similar distinctions could be made in the humanities: the study of logic, in analytical philosophy, changes at a far slower pace than, for instance, the study of revolutionary movements, in history.

It might be objected that, regardless of the discipline, scholarly research is by definition an attempt to modify an existing body of knowledge. In that case, innovation, understood as the transformative mode of knowledge transmission, could equally well be experienced in, or exemplified by, any field. To an extent, this is true: freshman seminars at research universities seek to introduce students at a beginner's level to the excitement of research in, say, electrical engineering, marine biology, or U.S. constitutional history.

When one considers the curricular requirements of most scientific majors, however, it becomes equally apparent that the majority of courses focus on reproducing knowledge in the students. Neurobiology may be a field in flux, but before you can study the interaction of synapses, you need a solid foundation in biochemistry. Today's majors in theoretical physics may go on to discover new subatomic particles and rewrite the rules of quantum mechanics, but first they have to master the more mundane-and largely unchanging-practice of deriving integral equations.

Of course, humanities disciplines are also structured around canons of knowledge (even if these canons are more liable to change). You cannot major in French without having read a number of seventeenth-century plays and nineteenth-century novels; if you never read a page of Kant, you probably won't be allowed to major in philosophy. But the real difference between studies in the humanities and the sciences resides in how their respective canons are assimilated. Students studying the American Revolution, for instance, are not only expected to know the names and dates of all the important players or events. They are also obliged to demonstrate that they can make sense on their own of the material; that they can develop original arguments about reasons, motivations, and outcomes for the past.

This point may seem overly subtle, but it becomes clearly evident in the case of final papers. If you provide the same answers as fifty other students on a calculus exam, you may very well get an A-assuming, of course, that those were the correct answers. But if you hand in a final essay for your American history course, in which you develop the same thesis as fifty other students, you would most likely not get an A, since original thinking is one of the criteria used to evaluate a student's understanding and assimilation of material.
Furthermore, while science and math classes may on occasion demand that the students find innovative methods for solving problems, the humanities demand originality from day one. As I recounted in an earlier version of this piece (Edelstein 2009), I first became aware of this expectation when teaching an Introduction to the Humanities course to freshmen at Stanford. Speaking with me after class, two Chinese students expressed their confusion at having to write papers that defended an original thesis. Their high schools had focused only on memorization, whereas we were asking them to explain what they thought about literary texts.

What took our international students by surprise is precisely one of the central ingredients of American liberal education. As part of our ambition to create independently minded individuals, we encourage students to think for themselves. They might not come up with ideas that are "original" in the grand scheme of things, but they are expected to reach conclusions on their own. The entire reward system of the humanities, moreover, favors those students who either make a convincing case for an unusual argument, or an unusual case for a convincing argument. In both scenarios, high grades and prizes go to students who demonstrate the most originality.

Classes in the humanities not only offer students the best opportunities to practice innovative thinking, but also provide them with models for how to do so. Professors, after all, are not simply there to transmit discrete data packages about books, compositions, theories, or events, but rather to show the students how one goes about piecing together an argument and narrative around a subject. Professors "perform innovation" when they offer, say, a political reading of Hamlet, an economic interpretation of the American Revolution, or a Hegelian analysis of Marx. The best pedagogical practices in the humanities draw attention to the fact that the knowledge being conveyed is questionable. This is not an invitation to rampant revisionism or postmodernism, but a simple recognition that historical, literary, political, and anthropological knowledge is not made up of equations or organic structures, but of perceptions, arguments, aesthetic effects, philosophical concepts, and other representations whose signification is subject to change. The words of Hamlet or of the Declaration of Independence may not vary, but their meaning can.

A humanist turn

To sum up, it is not that humanities disciplines are more innovative than their scientific counterparts: it is simply that students are required to practice innovative thinking earlier on in their studies. Though there is a great difference in outcome between, say, a close reading of Balzac's Père Goriot and the development of a new software operating system, both rely on similar cognitive processes. And students will be exposed to these processes more often in humanities than in science or engineering classes.

Some might still consider this to be a self-aggrandizing claim of the sort humanists are rumored to be prone. But what these examples and arguments highlight is that the cognitive leap between, say, analyzing a Picasso portrait and diagnosing a patient is not that wide: though the subject matter is different, the intellectual process is closely related, and training in one field carries over into the other. The work done by students in humanities fields can have direct benefits for a wide array of professional activities. Who knows? Maybe doctors of literature can help save lives, too.


Edelstein, D. 2009. Iphigenia and the iPhone. Inside Higher Ed, August 13, www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/08/13/edelstein.

Fish, S. 2008. Will the humanities save us? New York Times, January 6, fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/will-the-humanities-save-us.

Friedman, T. 2009. Invent, invent, invent. New York Times, June 27, www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/opinion/28friedman.html.

Godwyn, M. 2009. Can the liberal arts and entrepreneurship work together? Academe 95 (1): 36-38.

Goldin, C., and L. F. Katz. 2008. The race between education and technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Mills, M., and J. Ottino. 2009. We need more Renaissance scientists. Forbes.com, June, 3, www.forbes.com/2009/06/03/phd-engineering-science-clayton-christensen-mark-mills-innovation-research.html.

Naghshineh, S., J. P. Hafler, A. R. Miller, M. A. Blanco, S. R. Lipsitz, R. P. Dubroff, S. Khoshbin, and J. T. Katz. 2008. Formal art observation training improves medical students' visual diagnostic skills. Journal of General Internal Medicine 23 (7): 991-7.

Task Force on the Future of American Innovation. 2005. The knowledge economy: Is the United States losing its competitive edge? www.futureofinnovation.org/PDF/Benchmarks.pdf.

Urban, G. 2001. Metaculture: How culture moves through the world. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

To respond to this article, e-mail liberaled@aacu.org, with the author's name on the subject line


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This post was edited by Dave Mogk on May, 2010
Hi Folks, Following on the discussion about Teaching Innovation and Creativity, I would like to offer a few insights from Murray Gell-Mann (physicist, Nobel Laureate, and the person who envisioned quarks), from his book The Quark and the Jaguar, Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. Chapter 17 is titled “From Learning to Creative Thinking”. Some quotes:
• A successful new theoretical idea typically alters and extends the existing body of theory to allow for observational facts that could not be previously understood or incorporated. It also makes possible new predictions that can some day be tested.
• …the novel idea includes a negative insight, the recognition that some previously accepted principle is wrong and must be discarded.
• p. 264….Around 1970…a small group of physicists, biologists, painters, and poets assembled to discuss the experience of getting creative ideas…The accounts all agreed to a remarkable extent [my emphasis inserted here]. We had each found a contradiction between the established way of doing things and something we needed to accomplish: in art, the expression of a feeling, a thought, an insight; in theoretical science, the explanation of some experimental facts in the face of an accepted “paradigm” that did not permit such an explanation….First we had worked for day or weeks or months, filling our minds with the difficulties of the problem…Second, there had come a time when further conscious thought was useless, even though we continued to carry the problem around with us. Third, suddenly, while we were cycling or shaving, or cooking the crucial idea had come. We had shaken loose from the rut we were in…(ref “preconscious” awareness). We were all impressed by the congruence of our stories.
• I learned that this insight about the act of creation was in fact rather old. Von Helmholz of the late 19th century described the three stages of conceiving an idea as saturation, incubation and illumination in perfect agreement with the members of our group a century later.
• In 1908 Henri Poincare added a forth stage, important and obvious—verification.
• Graham Wallas, psychologist, described this 4-stage process in 1926. See also the popular book by Morton Hunt, The Universe Within.
• p. 268 …many others have prepared teaching materials for special courses in thinking skills for schools…Some of those skills relate to getting creative ideas… One question that naturally arises is to what extent thinking skills learned in one connection are transferable to others

Gell-Mann continues to explore these themes in subsequent sections of this chapter: Can Incubation be Hastened or Circumvented? Transfer of Thinking Skills. Problem Formulation and the True Boundaries of a Problem.... This is all very rich, insightful reading.

Now back to the article in question, “How is Innovation Taught? - On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy”. When I first read this article, my initial response was that the article was really rather silly and pathetic, born of an unearned arrogance that revealed a distinct disciplinary insecurity. Normally, I would just dismiss such ramblings, and move on not willing to expend precious time or energy in a rebuttal (not even knowing where to start).

[As an aside, I find it interesting that Humanists cast Scientists as dweebs and dorks if we aren’t up-to-date about the theory of literary criticism du jour, and God forbid that we aren’t conversant about Foucault or Feyerabend (the horror!). But I find the lack of intellectual symmetry to be hypocritical when even the basic tenets of evolution, plate tectonics, driving forces in the universe are beyond the ken of our esteemed colleagues. My wife and I have stopped all conversation at a dinner party for university faculty, when asked what we do for a living, confessed to being a biochemist and geochemist…the embarrassed break in conversation revealed that there was not even a single point of tangency where our universes overlapped… but enough of this].

It appears that there is a collective desire to respond to the article. So, I would just suggest that we take a moral high ground and avoid completely any arguments about who is more creative or innovative. Rather:
• celebrate human creativity and innovation wherever it is found;
• redouble our efforts to characterize and articulate our work on what it takes to be a “master” scientist; document the process as well as the products of Scientific advancement; particularly address not only the physical activities of creation, but also the cognitive, metacognitive, and affective aspects that inform or enable creativity; perhaps a number of autobiographical case studies would be a nice outcome of this discussion as we ask “Master” scientists what the conditions and influences were that enabled them to make their unique contributions (Cathy and I tried to do this in the first set of essays in Earth and Mind).
• Perhaps it is important to look at intangible aspects such as: inspiration; historical or cultural influences; serendipity (discovery favors those with a fertile mind); personal and professional experience (Chuck Goodwin argues that communities evolve through collective mastery of tools, skills, and approaches, and it takes a long apprenticeship to become inculcated in the traditions of a discipline and then to able to independently contribute to the commonwealth).
• I would add intuition to the list. See Evelyn Fox Keller’s biography of Helen McClintock, Nobel Laureate and discoverer of “jumping genes” based on her intuition of how the genetic code worked in corn: A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock.
• Further explorations of “ways of knowing” should be pursued, perhaps based on Perry’s theoretical framework and contributions such as Belenky et al’s Women's Ways Of Knowing: The Development Of Self, Voice, And Mind. Thinking and learning (using a variety of strategies) would seem to be necessary underpinnings to doing truly creative and innovative work. And, we probably need to remember that what is “discovery” for novices, is probably “rediscovery” in the larger world of knowledge. But, training to look for discoveries in established and known systems may be a necessary pre-condition for making true discoveries in the universe.

It seems to me that there is a very sound theoretical, experimental and empirical base to conduct serious study of creativity and innovative abilities in all domains of human activity. Let’s dig deeper and see what really makes us tick (collectively as humans), rather than playing the game of “whose is bigger…”.

Just some reflections from the bleacher seats.
Dave Mogk

ADDENDUM to my original post, just some further insights: p 268 "...many have prepared teaching materials for courses in thinking skills...some of those skillsrelate to getting creative ideas....Frequently the materials for such courses emphasize thinking skills in particular contexts. ..One question that naturally arises is to what extent thinking skills learned in one connection are transferable to others. Does exercising one's mind by thinking up new policy o[ptions help one to disvoer good new ideas ina field of science or to create great works in art?

I would further suggest that there is a tremendous amount of creativity required to develop a new analytical tool or sensor, designed to see (or measure) the world in a new way. The emerging capabilities of geo-cyberinfrastructure are now allowing for a multitude of new and creative ways to represent data in 3 and 4-D, to make associations between the physical world, chemical data, geophysical data that were heretofore not possible.


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I'm not inclined to rebut that article, perhaps just from a personal philosophy developed over the years.

The conceptual nature of the forte of sciences seems rooted in discovery and the forte of the arts and humanities seems rooted in creativity. If Steno had not discovered that the oldest layers are on the bottom or Marie Curie had not discovered radium, someone else surely would have. If Frank Lloyd Wright hadn't designed Falling Waters or Mark Twain hadn't written Tom Sawyer, no one else would have, and we would not have knowledge of either creative product. There are distinctly different types of reasoning and contribution going on here, and they are unable to duplicate one another. Lewis Wolpert's The Unnatural Nature of Science makes some convincing points about the unique reasoning that we use. Hazen and Trefil in Science Matters also depart from the usual science literacy which involves "you know it or you don't kinds of facts" to answer particular test literacy items to stressing really understanding science as a process of knowing and thinking.

Surely, creativity seems really a requisite of the sciences in the ways we make discoveries and establish more confidence in our knowing and explanations of the physical world. Scientists are, in their own ways, probably as creative as any discipline. However, it seems our end goal is ultimately about the verifiable discovery rather than about the creation of a unique product. Biologist Bob Leamnson in Thinking about Teaching and Learning… made a particularly insightful distinction between discoveries and inventions that I have frequently found useful. I suspect in the arts, although I hesitate to try to speak for them, their end goal is more the creativity itself, so my sense is that they should be stronger in their kinds of creativity. Their creativity can be more diverse because it isn't necessary that it be either verifiable or constrained by natural law.

The second reason I don't want to rebut the article is that I believe in the liberal arts education and interdisciplinary reasoning. If we scientists start a tit-for-tat on- upping (I loved David Mogt's take on what I would call "academic disciplinary snobbery") by claiming we can teach creativity just as well as the humanities, it seems to me to disrespect their forte and what they have to offer to us. (This comes from a person who admits to a bit of perverse pleasure obtained from reading Fashionable Nonsense years ago.) In short, I worry about the value of arts and humanities in a university wherein we scientists would start to claim that we "can do it all." It is a healthy situation when the humanities assert their strengths, and I do not believe for a second that exposure to science alone can begin to produce anything that nearly approaches an educated person. The stripping away of arts and humanities from schools during times of fiscal crunches is one of the more short-sighted habits we Americans have gotten into in our so-called "management" of schools. The article in question is one I believe that we need more of, even though parts of it could rankle me if I read malevolent intent into them. I just chose not to.

The third is that the arts offer a tremendous amount of opportunity to develop higher level reasoning skills (aka. Perry, Reflective Judgment, Self-Authorship, Women's Ways of Knowing). A painting or a theatre production isn't exceptional because we "like it;" it takes a framework of reasoning and evidential criteria to make an informed evaluation. Making those judgments is not just touchy-feely opinion. Such open-ended kinds of challenges are very essential, and we should not be thinking that we scientists are the only ones who happen to use evidence and frameworks of reasoning established through the hard work of generations. In fact, I believe that it is good for us scientists to struggle with such reasoning in using content with which we are neither familiar nor particularly accomplished. If nothing else, it provides humility.

The signature reasoning of multiple working hypotheses that was articulated by a geologist is the basis for discovering strongest interpretations in history. For some reason that often ends up as a "humanity" rather than as a "social science," but the reasoning rooted in evidence that is used to reconstruct a history of humanity are a parallel to constructing the history of our planet. I would be especially careful as a geologist about criticizing that particular humanity.

In short, I liked the article and saw nothing that incited any fighting response in me. Anyway-my two cents worth.

Ed Nuhfer
Director of Faculty Development and Professor of Geoscience
California State University Channel Islands


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