The latest junk degree: Interdisciplinary Studies

Yes, you too can have a degree in anything you want! Enjoy music, political science and yoga? How about math, Shakespeare and welding? Change your major too many times? Have we got the ticket out for you! Get a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Come up with your own study plan – have a couple of your favorite profs sign off on it and you’re on your way! It sounds cooler than a General Studies degree too.

PLUS, if you still can’t get a job when your done, you can always go back and get a GRADUATE degree in interdisciplinary studies! Woo hoo! Add some French and a thesis on the intersection of the Beatles White Album with Finnegan’s Wake. Cool! Now that you’re $100k in debt, you’re sure to find that dream job.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m actually ALL FOR interdisciplinary studies. I think nearly all of the most interesting scholarship AND productive work out there intersects many disciplines.

Can you write a killer application with only raw computer science chops? No. Creative graphic design powers? No. A deep understanding of user interfaces and lots of intuitive empathy? No. You need all three! Yes, you can have a team of people working on a project, one of each, but the really genius folks have all three working together in their own heads. You won’t learn this stuff in school either, though school will help parts of it.

I like reading Girard and he dabbles in philosophy, anthropology, psychology, literary criticism, theology, and more to come up with some truly original ideas.

The problem with our kings and politicians today is that they are hyper-specialists in getting elected with (occasionally) some background in law. This is not a good mix for actual creative problem solving.

It’s well-known that some of the world’s greatest musical performers are lousy teachers. Teaching well has almost nothing to do with your ability to practice 10 hours a day without your head falling off. It requires a lot of thinking about cognitive psychology, communication, and even a certain set of sharp social skills.

The world has had many great inventors, but all the ones you probably know about (folks like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs) also knew a thing or two about economics.

I could go on and on. All the best stuff is “interdisciplinary”. But you got to figure that out on your own. The degree won’t really help. It could mean anything, or nothing.

Oddly enough, I got to thinking about this after reading the introduction to Erik Erikson’s Martin Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History:

So we may have to risk that bit of impurity which is inherent in the hyphen of the psycho-historical as well as of all other hypehenated approaches. They are the compost heap of today’s interdisciplinary efforts, which may help to fertilize new fields, and to produce future flowers of new methodological clarity.

His own metaphor is tongue-in-cheek. I love it.