The world’s most pressing problems call for new approaches that are multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, and multicultural. Whether climate change, hunger, infectious disease, or transnational crime, we face issues that are too complex to understand, let alone act on, through a narrow lens.
These “wicked problems” can only be analyzed by juxtaposing multiple disciplinary perspectives. They can only be understood by examining their impact on different constituencies. And they can only be solved by integrating diverse—even antagonistic—points of view.
Rather than equipping students with the tools to do that, universities are increasingly asked to produce employable, highly specialized professionals who can meet the needs of today’s marketplace. Graduates must be able to seamlessly join the ranks of organizations. Many of the organizations, however, have proved incapable of addressing today’s problems if they are not contributing to or perpetuating them.
As Albert Einstein said, “The thinking it took to get us into this mess is not the same thinking that is going to get us out of it.” But we continue to play where the proverbial puck is, not where it should be headed.
Critical thinking has long been held as a hallmark of American liberal education. Our challenge today is to develop not only critical thinkers, but critical doers: individuals with the skills, attitudes, methods, and mindset necessary to creatively and collaboratively engage in finding new solutions to complex problems, to transform institutions or to create new ones. Call them problem solvers, leaders, or entrepreneurs.
In his chapter Dr. Cabrera explains the process and questions his institution has tackled to create graduates that can solve the world’s future problems. His chapter is a terrific read on challenging the status quo.