Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy,
San Diego State
Posted: March 17, 2011 12:12 PM
Fifty years ago, physicist-turned-novelist C.P. Snow talked about “two cultures” of physicists and writers and the “hostility and dislike” that divided the world’s “natural scientists — its chemists, engineers, physicists and biologists — from its literary intellectuals.”
He found it strange that more scientists weren’t artists and musicians and more artists lacked a similar interest in the sciences. What happened to the classically trained person? he mused. In his day (turn of the 20th century), all these subjects were “branches of the same tree.”
Yet for the last 100 years or so, it seems, things have not changed. Society rarely blurs the lines between the disciplines of art and science. You are either going to grow up an artist or musician or a scientist or mathematician — as Snow said, two distinct cultures.
That cultural divide, Natalie Angier of the New York Times reported, “continues to this day, particularly in the United States, as educators, policymakers and other observers bemoan the Balkanization of knowledge, the scientific illiteracy of the general public and the chronic academic turf wars that are all too easily lampooned.”
Can we change this divide? Can we eliminate the silos in our curriculum? Can we reinvent our systems of education to give our young people what they need to be a productive member of our society and economy?