Here are my main concerns:
- In thinking what courses to require in the new major, we were specifically instructed to give priority to courses in rhetoric and writing. Would it not then be disingenuous to behave as if rhetoric and writing were essentially the same thing as literature, philosophy, and fine arts? If all these subjects are basically the same, why prioritize rhetoric and writing? If they aren't basically the same, why label them as if they were?
- It might be nice to break down boundaries within the new department, but wouldn't it be more helpful to people outside the department to be able to see easily which courses are in literature, which in philosophy, which in rhetoric, and so on? If I'm a graduate school admissions officer or potential employer, isn't it legitimate for me to want to know what kinds of courses a student has taken? If another department at VMI wants its students to take a course or two in writing, wouldn't it be helpful for them to know which are writing courses and which are literature or fine arts courses? And if a student takes ethics and likes it, wouldn't it be helpful for them to be able to find similar courses easily? Not to mention that a change in labeling would almost certainly mean that students could no longer get minors in philosophy, fine arts, etc.
- I'm not a disciplinary purist and do teach, for instance, some literature in my courses. But I still recognize that I have been given a specialized education, that I have had a particular training and have particular skills that make me suited to teach certain types of courses (i.e. courses in philosophy) and not others. Doesn't interdisciplinary work rely on some disciplinary skills, concerns, and methods? Otherwise isn't there a danger of a lack of rigor and, in a word, mush?
- Given that we currently do distinguish between writing courses and those in English literature, those in fine arts, and those in philosophy, why not continue to do so? Is there a serious danger that students or faculty members will divide harmfully along these lines unless we deny that they exist? I'm currently in the Department of Psychology and Philosophy, and we all get along very well. Psychology majors can get either a BA or a BS, and they all get along.