When considering success in the realm of higher education, many people point to the level of an individual’s “expertise” for an answer or tangible form of measurement. Students are encouraged to focus on one field (and beyond that, on one occupation within a field) — and the “way” is now to idealize the position of the expert. Unfortunately, this is almost always synonymous with the removal of all other intellectual/academic ventures; there is literally not enough time to trifle with anything beyond the “one goal.” It seems that if one doesn’t have a major that translates directly to a career post-college, then one is destined to wander the professional world aimlessly. The real problem, in my opinion, is a broken and limiting educational system. This mentality is dangerous; without encouraging a renaissance-driven approach to a variety of fields, we risk becoming irrelevant to many demanding problems and challenges and are left with one area of expertise. But we have come to understand Liberal Arts as “diluted”, “attention-deficit”, or “lacking direction.” The idea of the University, however, was built with the hope of developing individuals who are able to address a variety of issues and contribute to the complexity of the modern world. Expertise suggests that we might lack the bigger picture mentality — and often, the opportunities and issues that rest at our periphery can be more important than the expected reward on the primary path. On a more figurative level, we mirror a lack of communication and dialogue when we forego a varied approach to our own education (within or outside of formal academia) and hone in on one area alone.
Granted, expertise has lent itself to the success of many people and there is something to be said for the individual whose attention to one goal cannot be deterred; this should be respected for what it is. But we should understand that one human should not be limited to one calling — we are people of variety and potential. And where different paths meet, newness and invention is a common result.
We should expect from ourselves and others a level of scholarship that seeks truth and knowledge within many facets of the academic and social world…for it is often at the intersection of fields where innovation and renewal seem to exist.