26 October, 2020

A Warm, Epistemic Caress

Undergraduate teaching must focus on the ‘big think’ questions that ignite passionate interest

New entrants are often caught between adolescent imagination and the intellectual reality of a discipline
Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
A Warm, Epistemic Caress
outlookindia.com
2019-07-19T14:50:48+05:30

As students move from Class XII to college, they face radical shifts in the way disciplines are taught. The ‘difficulty’ of understanding subjects is the result not only of a quantitative expansion of the discipline’s horizons, but more importantly, of fundamental qualitative shifts in the way knowledge is produced in professional scholarship. Sometimes, this makes for rude surprises.

A student wants to study psychology because he/she wants to figure out why men are from Mars and women are from Venus. More ambitiously, they wish to learn about the vagaries of the human mind. As the major gets going, they find themselves in labs feeding mice and in class before Power­Points on neurons. Another student has taken up economics because she longs to unravel the ethics of human want and lack in the world. They find that they have signed up for advanced mathematics and statistical modelling instead.    

Inevitably, there are disappointments, sometimes def­ection from chosen courses. This is what career confusion looks like: caught...

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