The Renaissance Scholar

Everyone in their life has probably one time or another heard the phrase, “You can’t be good at everything”, whether it was comforting someone because they messed up or using it as an excuse for not trying something new. We grow up thinking that this idea of being perfect is impossible and that we really cannot be good at more than one thing. But maybe our idea of perfection does not have to be as far as being “perfect” at everything, maybe being perfect is just being well rounded enough that you know to try everything and use what you do know to accomplish many things instead of just one.

Moti Nissani compares this concept to becoming a Renaissance Scholar, such like Leonardo da Vinci. We have put this Renaissance Scholar imagine out of reach by making it seem like an un-achievable goal. Really though, this goal of being great at everything is something we should focus on because of how important it is to not limit our knowledge.

To relate this over to education systems today, we have a group of students taking a very specific major and a group of students studying muiltidisciplines or interdisciplines. The first group is only preparing themselves in a small area of knowledge, and possibly one that is for jobs that require more outside knowledge then they expect. The ones in the second group will have a broader skill set of knowledge, where they can complement their job with other abilities. Expanding our education to this level, where we include many disciplines, not only increases our chances of getting a job in any of the fields, but also puts us one step ahead in of those just knowledgeable in that one field.

Nissani describes an important part of this process, of learning in an interdisciplinary fashion, as Unity of Knowledge. This is failing to fit in the boundaries of a theme. A common problem people run into is this: where they either want to study so many disciplines that they just do not all connect. Here, is a good example of not putting 100% into all the disciplines because they are too different and spread out. This would drive us away from our goal of being well rounded because we are not using all your knowledge together. Nissani suggests that it is not impossible but that the more we spread ourselves out to less we are learning about our key subjects.

Another aspect of learning, in an interdisciplinary way, is the Law of Diminishing Returns. Nissani describes this by saying, “It takes hours to learn chess, months to get to be reasonably good, and years to become an expert.” We cannot just go into a new situation and understand it. When we start a new job it takes time to get the tone of the workers, the organization of the office and the process of production. When we start a new class, we have to learn about the style the teacher teaches in and the goals we have for our self. In everything we start off an amateur, and we have to keep at it to learn. This is important in interdisciplinary studies because we are combining so many topics together that we have to takes steps to become an expert.

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2 thoughts on “The Renaissance Scholar”

  1. You do a good job of tracing your ideas through the Nissani article, but I love most of all the way you begin here: by thinking about how valuable “breadth” becomes if we let go of the idea that mastery or perfection is the goal. Great reflection on what it means to be an interdisciplinarian!

  2. The opening sentence draws me into this so much, its so true! While conventional thinking is you can’t be good at everything as interdisciplinarians we realize you can be good at very many thing, but the master of none.

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