Interdisciplinary thinking: Teachers, students practice and apply through public debate

Learning to integrate ideas rather than looking at life as a choice between “either/or” is the goal of the Interdisciplinary Studies program at Sierra Nevada College. Katie Zanto, Interdisciplinary Studies program chair, said she strives to demonstrate this through a number of ways including student/faculty interaction.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, students from Interdisciplinary Studies and Digital Arts classes met to watch a presentation given by Richard Gire, assistant professor of Business, and Chris Lanier, assistant professor of Digital Arts. The presentation covered copyright law in relation to the music industry.

“The concept was to give students a based-on-real-life issue to apply integrative thinking,” said Zanto.

Gire and Lanier looked into the current state of copyright law through the lens of their disciplines, providing opposing viewpoints for students to consider. Through the lens of Digital Arts, Lanier argued that current copyright law restricted creativity because it benefits the owner of the piece, which is not always the person who created the piece. On the other hand, Gire said that copyright law is meant to incentivize artists by protecting their works in such a way that they can earn a living.

There was no resolution at the end of the lecture. Students of Zanto’s Interdisciplinary Studies class were asked to take ideas from both sides of the argument and integrate them into a solution that satisfies both view points.

Case studies that allow students to integrate ideas help them to apply what they learn in text books to real life issues.

“If you can’t find the correlation between what you learn here and what’s out there, then we’ve failed,” said Gire.

To make a strong argument, one must understand why someone would argue the opposite viewpoint, said Lanier. Interdisciplinary thinking gives students the tools to evaluate arguments rather than teaching them “here is what you should think.”

Both Gire and Lanier presented a passionate argument, but each admitted to playing devil’s advocate for the presentation to provide a stronger contrast of opinion.

“Its fun, within the context of that class, to have a civil argument about something without actually resolving it,” said Lanier.