Discuss the potential disadvantages of breaking students’ studies into separate subjects.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a real interesting question.  I would say that one potential disadvantage of being bound to discipline- based learning is that it might not mirror what "real" learning actually is.  When one considers the most rigorous elements of scholarship, such as the Greek thinkers, one recognizes how their learning and their modeling of scholarship was done in an interdisciplinary format.  Aristotle and Plato spoke of philosophy, history, poetry, artistic creation, and rhetoric.  They were not bound by the disciplines and the construction or borders that stated learning ends at a particular domain.  Scholarship knows no boundaries.  It seems to me that a great disservice is done to students when they are pigeon- holed into a specfic discipline as opposed to seeing learning as a broad based canvass that can delve into different terrains of learning and knowledge.  At the same time, I think that another disadvantage of the separation of subjects is the propensity for "deification" of a particular branch of study at the cost of other branches.  The "History" people see themselves as the bastion of "truth."  Yet, this flies in the face of the "science" people who see themselves as the only intellectual game in town.  The math people will quesiton this assertion, and let us not forget that the literature people probably feel that they have cornered the market on learning and identity.  In the end, the borders established by disciplines and an emphasis on disciplinarity has created a setting where dialogue is not as evident as multiple monologues that serve as "empty chairs at empty tables."  I think that this becomes another potential disadvantage of the discipline- bound approach to learning.  I think that the final disadvantage of the emphasis on disciplinarity is that it forces students to see the world as only what it is and not what it can be.  Traditional instruction has been defined by its emphasis on disciplinarity.  Students have become conditioned and trained to say, "Oh, that's only done in Math" or "That's a History idea."  Students are not being trained and educated in the idea that learning is fluid and being able to link concepts across disciplines increases retention and comprehension of it.  Students are not being instructed on what can be or what should be in regards to the idea of interdisciplinarity.  Students can gain so much more when they are reading a text in different lights via disciplines.  When the emphasis on disciplinarity is enforced, students lose the potential to see what can be as opposed to what is.  This lack of transformative quality  in education and learning might be one of the potential disadvantages of breaking students' studies into separate subjects.

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