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CONCERNING THE CURRICULUM: A DIALOGUE P. K. RANGACHARI* It is late fall, though little of that can be felt in the overheated room, where a young man nervously leafs through papers in a folder. The room is lined with books and journals, and on the walls hang framed degrees and certificates for exams passed and awards given. Neat piles of paper sit expectantly on the vast expanse of an oak desk. The young man seems unaware of all this, nor does he bother to glance out of the window at the largely barren trees, clinging to the few leaves left on their boughs. The door opens, and a pert young head pops in. Y.W.: He just called. He'll be in shortly. Would you like a cup of coffee? Y.M.: Oh, thanks. Y.W.: Black, or with cream and sugar? Y.M.: Cream, please, no sugar. Thanks. The door closes on a smile. The young man settles back to his papers. He soon tires of it, gets up, and paces the room. Tries to pull a book off the shelf; it refuses to budge, and he goes back to his chair. The young woman enters, gives him his coffee, flashes a smile, and bounces out. The silence is broken only by the tinkle as the young man replaces the cup on its saucer. A gruffvoice is heard outside. The door opens and the dean walks in. He is a tall man with an expansive chest, making him look twice as large, neatly dressed in a conservative blue-grey suit, looking more like a successful corporation lawyer than a scholar, perhaps more in keeping with the contemporary image of the dean as an entrepreneur . Rumour has it that once he had been a brilliant immunologist and quite radical in his views. But the years have taken their toll, and little of ?Health Sciences Centre 3N5C, McMaster University, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 3Z5.© 1988 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 003 1-5982/88/3103-0578$01 .00 Perspectives in Biobgy and Medicine, 31, 3 ¦ Spring 1988 \ 369 that remains. He is now the corporation leader par excellence. He walks in briskly and turns to the young man, who has risen from his chair. Dean: Er—Dr.—Eh. Yes. I'm afraid I've been held up. Do sit down. John told me that you were coming. Y.M.: Thanks, sir. Dean: (sits down, leans back) Now, what was it that you wanted to see me about? Some course that you've designed, I think? John tells me that you've been pretty involved in educational psychology and all that kind of stuff. Y.M.: Not really, sir. I've done the odd course, but I'm really a physiologist by training, and that's what I teach. Dean: (impatiently) Yes, yes. But this course that you're talking about is not a regular sort ofcourse, is it? It had an odd sound to it—Sorry, I've forgotten what it was. Y.M.: Sir, it's called "The Context of Biological Discovery," and what I would like to do . . . Dean: (interrupts) What does all that mean? I'm really somewhat old-fashioned, and we never thought about such things when I went through graduate school. Y.M.: (eagerly) Yes, sir. That's right. Very few students really do. They enter graduate schools, read papers, do their experiments , do a few courses tailored to their narrow specialties, write their theses, and get their degrees. Dean: (sarcastically) How simple it all seems, doesn't it? We seemed to spend a lot of time doing these simple things. We hardly had much truck for philosophy then. So, you want to make scientists philosophers, is it? Y.M.: No, sir, not at all. Just that a little appreciation of the context in which a discovery occurs may help them understand their disciplines better. Dean: I really haven't time to argue that with you. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, though I frankly confess that all this seems quite unnecessary to me right now. Anyway, John said that you had been talking to him...


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pp. 369-380
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