Sunday, 26 August 2007

Academic Cross-Training

Cross-training is not a new idea.

In most professional sports cross-training is incorporated into the usual training regime. Although weight-training and swimming are popular there are more exotic options around. Some Australian Rules footballers have even dabbled in ballet.

In cultures that emphasize the development of the individual as well as excellence, breadth and depth are valued. And for those who like the etymological definition of philosophy -- love of learning -- this is a bit of a no-brainer.

Now, if you are focussed on a narrow goal over a wide-ranging journey the diversions of breadth may prove a waste of time. But if the converse holds you will find that there is much to learn by exploring other disciplines. Here's what happened when physicist Richard Feynman ventured into biology.

If two academic disciplines are dealing with similar material at a deep level, chances are that each has something to offer an individual who crosses over from the other side.

Of course forcing everyone to compulsorily study X, usually leads to resentment from a significant proportion of those so conscripted, so when I say should study, I really mean should be encouraged to study.

In terms of excellence, someone should make a list of people who have achieved excellence after switching fields.

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In sports, it is well-known that gymnasts do well after switching to diving and ski-jumping. From this I infer that gymnastics teaches transferable skills.

What are the nominations for the gymnastics of academic disciplines?

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