Somewhere, C.P. Snow is smiling

January 25, 2011 at 10:08 am 7 comments

I’m surprised that the article doesn’t reference The Two Cultures.

Called Citizen Science, the new program is the brainchild of Bard’s president, Leon Botstein, who is himself an artist — the music director and conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Botstein has accused colleges of shirking their responsibility to create a well-rounded citizenry.

“The most terrifying problem in American university education is the profound lack of scientific literacy for the people we give diplomas to who are not scientists or engineers,” he said. “The hidden Achilles’ heel is that while we’ve found ways to educate scientists in the humanities, the reverse has never really happened. Everybody knows this, but nobody wants to do anything about it.”

via Bard College Freshmen Get Crash Course in Science – NYTimes.com.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Kay  |  January 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Heh heh, maybe the journalist is not well read!

    Cheers,

    Alan

    Reply
  • 2. Bradley Beth  |  January 25, 2011 at 11:02 am

    My wife got her undergraduate degree at Bard (BTW, that was coolest graduation ceremony I ever attended – the speakers were Wei Jingsheng, Ed Whitten, and Winton Marsalis), so we always follow what’s going on there through alumni mailings and what-not.

    Botstein’s done a lot of interesting things. There’s Simon’s Rock ECHS and the prison intiatives they’ve put together.

    Mark – have you read or heard about his book on K-12 education reform, Jefferson’s Children? If so, just curious what you thought of it…

    Reply
    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  January 26, 2011 at 7:49 am

      I hadn’t, Bradley — thanks for the recommendation.

      Reply
  • 4. Alan Kay  |  January 25, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Giving Dr Botstein the benefit of the doubt, let’s guess that he understands why most scientists get pretty well grounded in the liberal arts and why the opposite doesn’t happen (Snow mentions this specifically in his Rede Lecture).

    I’m sure his brother does understand this.

    If so, what is the purpose of his saying “we’ve found ways to educate scientists in the humanities, the reverse has never really happened”?

    (I.e. no special ways have (ever?) been devised to educate scientists in the humanities. Science is the actual add-on here, and the very real difficulties are partly epistemological and partly the absence of mathematics as part of the humanities)

    To me, the substance of the article is is “weak tea” at best, perhaps not even warm water, maybe not even drinkable water.

    The reaction at the end of the student to create a summary in terms of a dance seems to be an indication of the problem.

    I think it takes years to being able to add deep non-story ways of understanding and thinking to our very story based brain/minds. This should be the real province of education. What is happening at Bard might be a commercial for the real thing, but it looks more like a commercial for the wrong thing.

    Cheers,

    Alan

    Reply
    • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  January 26, 2011 at 7:52 am

      Hi Alan,

      My 13 year old has started asking me about the tendency of humans to use narrative to understand the world, and she’s been wondering when that doesn’t work. I’ve been using stories from James Gleick’s book on chaos theory and non-linear systems, to show that the real world is far more complicated than the simple causal, linear relationships that narratives tend to be built around. It’s led to some interesting conversations about science and epistemology.

      Cheers!
      Mark

      Reply
      • 6. Alan Kay  |  January 26, 2011 at 8:04 am

        She seems much more perceptive than most. Do you have any idea (or could you ask her) how she came to think that story might not work well universally?

        She would have made a great student intern at PARC

        Cheers,

        Alan

        Reply
        • 7. Mark Guzdial  |  January 26, 2011 at 10:24 am

          Thanks — I wish I could claim brilliant parenting, but the most likely suspect is her 19 year old brother taking classes in Computational Media here at Georgia Tech. He’s thinking deeply about the role (and limitations) of narrative in various media, and conversations around the house often touch on these topics.

          Cheers!
          Mark

          Reply

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