One of my first encounters with SUNY Geneseo was for an overnight stay, and it was during this experience that I had my first true exposure to a casual analysis of our disciplinary society.
The two roommates who were hosting myself and another potential Geneseo student walked us to their residence hall on that cold April afternoon and, with the eager intent of distracting me and my companion from the blustering campus chill and awkwardness of first encounters, brought up an internet forum that was popular among the students at the college. One of our hostesses fondly remembered what she thought to be a humorous controversy between students of various majors in this forum. In this instance, individuals anonymously, although violently, fought with each other in regards to which major was the most challenging to study in terms of workload and concept. Thinking back, I can understand that the students were, amidst their cries for sympathy, trying to establish a “hierarchy of majors.”
As discussed in Joe Moran’s book, Interdisciplinarity, society has felt the push to organize knowledge into certain disciplines that do not, or cannot, mix. The result of this push was interestingly described by an anthropologist, who emphasized the hostility and alertness that exists from students of one major toward those of another major, especially in each other their own “territories” (Moran, 12). This analogy is surprisingly accurate when observing university students today. We are all separated both into and by our majors, and while some students may double major or minor, such as in Biology as well as Spanish, that is only standing the subjects next to each other, but keeping the divider down the middle.
Although Moran idealizes a society in which knowledge does not need to be broken down into bite-sized pieces (sliced into distinct disciplines/majors) the fact of the matter is that such a world is almost impossible to achieve. Specialization is what leads to success in a field, by limiting the researcher’s scope (Moran, 7). University students today seem to grasp that idea, although it has mutated into a, perhaps unhealthy, attachment to our distinct majors. How can we, as students, embrace both the freedom of interdisciplinarity as well as the necessity of specialization?