Galileo: An Experiment in Interdisciplinary Education
GALILEO was a team-taught course required of all ninth grade students at Francis Parker, a progressive, middle-class, urban school. The content of the course included Galileo's writings, biographical and historical studies, and Brecht's play Galileo. The planning and execution of the course attempted to transcend fractious controversy over common courses by asking the entire faculty to sponsor and evaluate the program. The course presented an opportunity for the faculty to engage in an ongoing experiment in cooperative development of curriculum. Instead of an authoritarian concern to make students master basic skills, GALILEO invoked the approach of a liberal education: we imparted skills of making other selves, making connections, making judgments, and making ourselves in the recovery of one man's life, works, and character. The principal theme of the course was the relationship between observation and inference. Whether observing the night sky with the naked eye or the moon with a telescope assembled in class, students had to pay close attention to details; whether considering the apparently spherical shape of the jagged moon or the retrograde motion of an outer planet, students had to distinguish what Galileo observed from what he inferred about those details. The course became a canvas for the study of authority. Galileo's own conflicts with the Church and Brecht's dramatization of the conflict between scientist and state delineated moral and political problems of authority. GALILEO explored the intellectual problems of authority in adjusting the relative importance of tradition and method. In his desire to persuade the truth of the new cosmology, Galileo argued that theology regulates but does not constitute the sciences. Although Galileo's conception of relative motion does not immediately appeal to common sense, thought can reshape experience through the authority of experiment. GALILEO contributed to interdisciplinary education in four ways: it created a pattern of shared design, teaching, and evaluation for teachers; it developed an active conjunction of disciplines for the development of skills in its students; it presented a subject that richly interweaves the sciences and the humanities; and it stimulated assessment of the present and future needs of education.
Kaplan, A. (1988). Galileo: An Experiment in Interdisciplinary Education. Curriculum Inquiry, 18(3), 255–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/03626784.1988.11076041
Type of Publication
Francis W. Parker School Chicago
Taylor & Francis
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America