Chapter 1 describes the rise of interdisciplinarity as a theme in higher education in recent years. Efforts to promote reform are evident in faculty hiring initiatives, university program reorganizations, foundation grant criteria, and undergraduate curricular proposals. The chapter suggests that the case against traditional academic disciplines such as biology, economics and history is overstated in some respects and misdirected in others. A long-term view of the contributions of disciplines suggests that they have been remarkably successful in generating successful research agendas. The tremendous volume of specialized knowledge raises questions about the viability of schemes designed to “integrate” knowledge. Alternatives to disciplines would likely recreate some of their key features: peer-reviewed journals, scholarly conferences, internal specialization, in short, they would recreate the structures of established discplines. Chapter 1 provides a brief sketch of the ideas developed and evidence presented in each of the subsequent chapters.
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