Across the Aisle

I’m a firm believer that whenever people cross disciplinary lines to accomplish any sort of task, especially for the greater good, that everyone wins.

Following a fantastic experience at an applied theatre conference a few weeks ago, I presented some ideas to a group of clinicians this week about using theatrical techniques to work with individuals on the autism spectrum. The clinicians were engaged, ideas started flowing, and everyone just broke out of their shell and had fun! This topic is just an example of how this idea of interdisciplinarity works, and there is beginning to be evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies regarding the success of this particular collaboration.

In Entertainment Theology: New-Edge Spirituality in a Digital Democracy, Barry Taylor says it this way: “…no field of study stands alone or apart. The present situation is one in which old categories have been dissolved and boundaries separating fields of study have been erased” (p. 201). I’ve witnessed this to be true in my experience. Universities are beginning to launch graduate programs in interdisciplinary studies, and established schools within those universities are beginning to launch interdisciplinary programs of study within their own schools, bringing in students with research interests launched from different disciplines to contribute to the whole in a better way.

Since the Industrial Revolution, our professional expertise has become increasingly compartmentalized. In doing so, we’ve isolated ourselves from those in other disciplines, focusing so intently on the mathematics that we forget the value of the literature, or so pragmatically on the pharmacy that we forget the contributions of music. The actor has something valuable to bring to the psychologist’s practice, as does the psychologist to the actor’s craft. We can’t, of course, discount the idea of being a specialist in a specific field…the idea of being the best at what you do…but we can’t forget to talk to each other in doing so, either.

In fact, if we continue to take the concept of interdisciplinary discussion seriously, I think some really good things will begin to manifest. A mutual respect of everyone for their unique skills, knowledge, and passions, for example. More people will know about more things, which removes some of the unnecessary elitism of knowledge in certain areas that permit some to take advantage of others. Mutual respect leads to more open and civil discourse, something that the U.S. could certainly use more of. When we begin to see, as Taylor states, that none of our fields stands alone or apart, we begin to realize that we actually need each other…that we don’t stand alone. When we recognize that we need each other, we become more civil with each other.

Imagine, civility and mutual respect. Who knows where that might lead?


  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I’m a scientist by training, but I’m also and artist and I see how melding the two enhances both. Let’s collaborate.

  2. You’re great, Daniel! I think we forget that the precursor to the modern scientific disciplines was natural philosophy. Crossing between different realms of study was once commonplace…only in the modern era have we began to wall ourselves off from each other.

    We’ve got to break down the walls, man! 🙂

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