Has That Always Been There?

Maybe my thinking has evolved since my freshman year (I hope it has) but, lately I tend to notice a lot more connections between classes. Something I am learning in one class will come to mind as I sit in another and I begin to see intersections between two different classes in two different disciplines. Maybe upper level classes are more conducive of such connections because they cover more specific areas? Or is my brain finally able to identify what was there all along?

It is the latter question that has me thinking lately. I can remember blogging in my freshman year how my classes seemed to exist in their own little bubbles and spheres, rarely intersecting. Now I find my brain going back and forth between my different classes and even forgetting what things I learned in what class.

Maybe some of you have gone through the same thing? It’s a genuine question that I have with no real answer, just ideas at this point. And different answers to this questions have different meanings or outcomes. I tend to lean towards the conclusion it has age that has allowed me to see these connections. If this is the answer though what has changed in my thinking, or, rather what was the process that led me here? Maybe I need to go through my old blog posts and follow the stream back towards the source.

I’m curious though what your experience with this? Has age brought you an ability to see these connections and how did you get to that point?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by daoro


4 Responses to “Has That Always Been There?”

  1. 1 bill September 10, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    The image of college as the cathedral of learning is more myth than fact, more Animal House’s “learning is good” than robed scholars conducting Platonic musings on life.

    Which is to say: we like to think that college makes those connections, tying the disciplines together, but they usually don.t When it DOES happen, I think it more a function of the participating person’s intellect than the environment. They threw the pieces in the air, but the person is the one who saw the pattern.

    Its possible to see connections where none exist — the classic image of the earnest young Ph.d writing a lengthy thesis on the significance of the semicolon in T.S. Eliot’s oeuvre (did I spell that right? Too tired to look) — which is why I don’t trust insights that occur after midnight. But if they hold up in the light of day, and can withstand gentle probing, they’re to be valued, and remembered. Because, short of the Google campus, and professional academia, they don’t normally happen in ‘the real world’. If you can build the *habit* of seeing such connections, you’ll be very, very fortunate, and so will your compatriots.

  2. 2 Laura September 11, 2009 at 9:03 am

    I remember the moment that happened for me in college. It was the spring of my junior year and I remember walking up the stairs talking to my English professor, from whom I was taking a Victorian Literature class, when I realized that what we were studying there was completely related to my Philosophy class. I think partly, the connections were there all along. The separation of areas of study is a relatively modern idea. I still see connections between lots of different disciplines. The sad thing is that the way academia works is that there’s a need for each discipline to claim certain ideas. I tried to buck tradition in my dissertation and included sociology, psychology and even biology in what should have been and English diss. Heh. Keep making the connections. New knowledge is often discovered via an interesting intersection of two very different disciplines.

  3. 3 sehauser September 11, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    @Bill I like the idea of “habit of seeing connections”. I think it is something we need to practice and learn to do.

    @Laura If I ever get to the dissertation point in my life I hope I can brave inter-disciplinary area like you. Definitely agree that new things are learned by finding an intersection between two disciplines that someone hasn’t noticed before. A reminder that containers and boundaries are completely man made.

  4. 4 Steve September 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    What you’re describing is a cognitive developmental step, which I think is more associated with being in school than with age, per se. Those connections are there, but one needs to learn enough of the content of each subject area before one can see the connections.

    Here’s something I read yesterday from Ben Friedman, an economics professor at Harvard:

    “Most talented people, at about your age (probably somewhere between 19 and 22), experience an enormous increase not only in their intellectual capabilities but also in the sheer energy that they are able to bring to bear on a project, and even in their ability to stick with a single project, and work hard on it, for a period as long as six months or even more. … Most of you undertook projects in high school that seemed challenging at the time. No doubt they were. But that was when you were perhaps 17. By age 20 or so, your intellectual capabilities, your energy, and your persistence are all far greater than they were just a few years ago. Most importantly, they are also far greater than you probably understand them to be. Because we normally do not push you enough, to lead you to stretch your developing muscles in any of these regards, many of you do not have a sense of what you are actually capable of doing.”

    So what does that bumper sticker say: “Learning Happens!”


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