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Vishnuteerth Agnihotri: Educating Versatilists for the Future

Presentation Abstract

In today’s world, we are faced with grave crises as well as exciting opportunities. On one hand, planetary ecosystems that support us seem to be past the point of recovery, while on the other, technologies like AI and genetic engineering offer possibilities that were unimaginable till recently. Many of the grave crises have stemmed from a ‘siloization’ of learning and an ‘arrogance of knowledge’- while ‘experts’ being limited in their perspectives on so many occasions (think DDT, Inequality, Climate Change, Financial crashes).

If the current and the next generation have to cope with these issues and create a better future, there is a need for ‘Versatilists’- individuals who not only have deep expertise in one field but also an appreciation of several other fields (breadth of knowledge). Such Versatilists can see problems and possibilities far more clearly than either ‘Generalists’ or ‘Specialists’. The deep contextual knowledge they have in one field and their ability to engage in transdisciplinary conversations with experts and other versatilists is crucial in responding to today’s complex challenges.

But how can one go about nurturing such versatilists? In this talk, we will look at what areas (both timeless and contemporary) need to be included in the curriculum, and how schools, parents, students and experts can work together in educating versatilists.