Higher learning as a “complex adaptive network”

April 27, 2009
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MCTSince the onslaught of the financial crisis, the federal government has bailed out Wall Street and Detroit. But at least one more venerable institution now needs saving, according to polymath and long-time UCP author Mark C. Taylor: the University. In an op-ed contribution published yesterday in the New York Times, Taylor lays out a six-point plan for restructuring higher education in this country. Among the many controversial recommendations Taylor offers—including dissolving academic departments and abolishing tenure—is a prescriptive that affects the publishing community in general and the academic press world in particular: the publication of dissertations. Taylor suggests that graduate students produce “analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games” instead of traditional “books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text.” Whether or not that evolution comes to pass, Taylor’s call to critically examine the state of the modern university has been met with vociferous debate in the Times’ online comment forum.
Many of the ideas that Taylor espouses in the piece, especially that of complex adaptive networks, have been explored in books ranging from The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture to Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World without Redemption to After God. For more on Taylor’s unique approach to knowledge, understanding, and faith in a modern world, read an excerpt from his uniquely interdisciplinary scholarship.

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