Thursday, November 14, 2013

Unmerged

In New School history this week, we discussed the merger of Parsons with The New School for Social Research in 1970. It was a startling development for both institutions, a bolt from the blue. There was no prior relationship of any kind and, as we've had occasion to remark already, it took time for a true relationship to emerge even after this.
What do the divisions have to give each other? We had the class debate the claim Design and liberal arts (Parsons and the New School) need each other. Because most of our students are at Parsons (most of those in Fashion) and perhaps also because we were half in 1970, the question of what design might offer the liberal arts was not addressed.

Highlights of their arguments are summarized above. You can't quite tell from this, but the contra side rather decisively won! A little upsetting. Beyond basic information available online, liberal arts seems to them at best a diversion, at worst a costly and useless nuisance, to many of the design students. But when I asked (in my discussion section) if there were design skills they thought liberal arts students should learn, they didn't want to there either. The deeper difference really is that between people who are seeking to excel (and find a job) in a given field - the conservatory model, on of my students (a dancer) suggested we call it - and the open-endedness of an education decoupled or at least loosened by design from such questions.

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