Monday, April 27, 2009

End of the Graduate World as We've Known It

In a provocative Op-ed article in the New York Times, Mark C. Taylor, Chair of the Religion Department at Columbia University, calls for a fundamental rethinking of the place of departments and the preparation of both graduate and undergraduate students. Citing the increasing disconnect between what graduate (and undergraduate) students learn, and the jobs that await them, Taylor calls for restructuring universities around problem centered programs that would be reconsidered regularly.

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.

As the Associate Dean of a program that has focused on the study of law in its social context, for both graduate and undergraduate students for the past thirty years (the program that is, not me!), I would like to offer an endorsement to Taylor's argument.