Redesigning universities towards objectives

Radical ideas from Mark C. Taylor, the chairman of the religion department, on how universities should be restructured:

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.

Big takeaway: using the creative and intellectual capacity of universities to work collaboratively towards solving society’s biggest challenges. I’d go back to school.


Andrew April 27, 2009 Reply

Wow, great idea. Plus, gives kids more of a reason as an answer to the “why am I doing this question?” If they couldn’t get motivated and inspired by a model like this then I’m not really sure what would have to be done. How about starting something like this in high school too?

Daniel April 28, 2009 Reply

If I were in high school, I’d totally be down 🙂

Openworld April 29, 2009 Reply

Awful idea – it all but ensures thinking in “silos” and entrenchment of particular patterns of problem solving, much as bureaucracies tend to do. George Gilder has pointed out the deep difference between opportunity-seeking (entrepreneurial) and problem-solving (bureaucratic) modes of interpreting the world. One encourages growth and conceptual breakthroughs; the other tends to stagnate.

Mark Frazier
@openworld (twitter)

Daniel April 29, 2009 Reply

@Mark I didn’t expect that comment at all, but I’m beginning to see your point. I read the op-ed along the lines of: universities should foster interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial approaches to solving problems. Entrepreneurship, to my knowledge and understanding, is art of solving problems, but I don’t know the distinction between opportunity-seeking and problem-solving well enough to comment further. Anything you’d suggest we read of George Gilder?

Jon Stahl April 29, 2009 Reply

Heh. I actually had Mark Taylor as a prof at Williams back in 1993. Provocative as always. I think I’d read it as a call for restructuring the ossified institutional structures, especially at the graduate level, and really focusing in interdisciplinary education. Which, ironically, is what the folks at Evergreen State College here in Washington, have been doing since 1967.

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