E. Ted Gladue: We need dreamers

Published: Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 11:35 p.m.

Kenneth Heilman's Nov. 26 Speaking Out, “The hard truth about the liberal arts,” addresses a fundamental truth about learning. And it flies in the face of parents desperately pushing their children to learn like Asian children; get those top grades in science and math.

The ground-breaking advances in science in the 20th century came not so much from discipline but from imagination, dreamers, and accidental and surprising happenings. The very things that Chinese universities do not do: turn out dreamers. That's why the new ideas of the 21st century will not come out of cultures that push discipline in learning over creativity, the latter the very soul of the liberal arts.

Heilman's reference to Mt. Sinai's medical school in New York City brings me back to a good case study that proves his argument.

For two years I studied clinical psychiatry at Mt. Sinai with M.D.s training to become psychiatrists in a specialized program called the “Psychodynamics of Human Behavior.” The program brought together Ph.D. students from City University of New York Graduate Center (political science Ph.D.s) and M.D.s. In both the classroom and in clinical work with patients, we liberal arts students of politics were most often not just the better students, but had the most successful break-through episodes working with patients with serious mental problems.

We were not just aware of our superior status over the M.D. students, we celebrated it every Friday over drinks in Murphy's bar near Mt. Sinai.

The M.D.s went home to study.

E. Ted Gladue, a resident of Hawthrone, is a writer whose latest novel, “Survival: The Adventures of Sean Semineaux,” was published in June 2011.

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