Interdisciplinary Education as Our Best Hope for the Future

Donald E. Hall explains the essential need for interdisciplinary education in the liberal arts and sciences – especially as informed by the humanities, the social sciences, the visual and performing arts and cultural studies.

Professor Donald E. Hall's opening questions are deceptively simple—but quickly point to a host of political conflicts and differences of perspective: how do we learn and what should we learn? Across the US and the world, we hear politicians and lay commentators call for university training that is focused primarily, if not solely, in the hard sciences and engineering. State and local governments in America are slashing funding for programs in philosophy, music, languages and anthropology. At a time when we are confronted with the enormous challenges of cultural conflict, political strife and religious intolerance, we are told that our hopes for the future rest on the solutions provided by technology alone. This is fool-hardy, if not actually self-destructive, in Professor Hall's opinion.

Science will help us cure disease. Technology will allow us to communicate and travel faster. Engineering may assist us in generating new forms of energy and protecting against eroding agricultural lands and coastal areas. However, none of them challenges the destructive force of self-interest, national or personal. None of them alone provides the tools to achieve the goal of living in peace, good will and a sense of shared interest with our fellow inhabitants of the planet so we can address global crises. For that, we need interdisciplinary training in the liberal arts and sciences— especially as informed by the humanities, the social sciences, the visual and performing arts and cultural studies. Only interdisciplinarity can teach us how to cross boundaries comfortably, even enthusiastically. Only interdisciplinary perspectives can save us from ourselves and the threats that are in fact produced by a narrow reliance on science, technology and business.

Professor Hall was a Featured Speaker at The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2014 (ACCS2014) in Osaka, Japan.

Professor Donald E. Hall

Donald E. Hall has published widely in the fields of British studies, gender theory, cultural studies and professional studies. Prior to arriving at Lehigh in 2011, he served as Jackson Distinguished Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English (and previously Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages) at West Virginia University (WVU). Before his tenure at WVU, he was Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English at California State University, Northridge, where he taught for thirteen years. He is a recipient of the University Distinguished Teaching Award at CSUN, was a visiting professor at the National University of Rwanda, was 2001 Lansdowne Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Victoria (Canada), was Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Cultural Studies at Karl Franzens University in Graz, Austria, for 2004-05, and was Fulbright Specialist at the University of Helsinki for 2006. He has taught also in Sweden, Romania, Hungary and China. He has served on numerous panels and committees for the Modern Language Association (MLA), including the Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion and the Convention Program Committee. In 2012, he served as national President of the Association of Departments of English. In 2013, he was elected to and began serving on the Executive Council of the MLA.

His current and forthcoming work examines issues such as professional responsibility and academic community-building, the dialogics of social change and ethical intellectualism and the Victorian (and our continuing) interest in the deployment of instrumental agency over our social, vocational and sexual selves. His book, The Academic Community: A Manual For Change, was published by Ohio State University Press in the fall of 2007. His tenth book, Reading Sexualities: Hermeneutic Theory and the Future of Queer Studies, was published in the spring of 2009. In 2012, he and Annamarie Jagose, of the University of Auckland, collaborated on a volume titled The Routledge Queer Studies Reader, which was published in July of that year. He continues to lecture worldwide on the value of a liberal arts education and the need for nurturing global competencies in students and interdisciplinary dialogue in and beyond the classroom.

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