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Kodomogaku - An interdisciplinary science: to make an orchestra of sciences

The number of new departments in "Kodomogaku" (Child Science) at undergraduate and junior college levels has been increasing in recent years in Japan. The 3rd Annual Child Science Conference, held in Kobe-city on September 2-3, 2006, had several symposiums to discuss the future of Child Science. One of the questions asked by a participant was thought-provoking to us: she wondered if Child Science, the new interdisciplinary science, should be studied at the graduate level. Being stimulated by her statement and all the symposiums, I would like to discuss what an interdisciplinary science is like, referring to an orchestra (an inter-instrumental activity).

Orchestra creates well-balanced, complex sounds that cannot be obtained by simply adding up each instrument. We may call it integrity of music. The great integrity can take place, because all of the members in the orchestra listen to each other. Besides, a suitable concert hall as well as an excellent composer and conductor are essential to make the beautiful, well-structured orchestra music happen. Similarly, Child Science should be much more than the simple sum of medicine, psychology, education, and so on. Since a child is an integrated, holistic being in nature, he/she should be understood and treated as such. According to Dr. Kobayashi, the main objective of Child Science is to understand children through biological and humanistic approaches. It focuses on the basic processes of growth and development in children, and applies these insights in studies of optimal formative environments, and problems of education and child behavior. In order to make this purpose of Child Science come true, Child Science researchers need to carefully listen to other researchers in different fields and a systematic structure for Child Science is necessary. Japanese Society of Child Science has been working on that.

To be a member of an orchestra, you first need to have your own role, own instrument. After you become a flutist, for example, you can join an orchestra so that you not only will know broader and complex sounds mixed with the other instruments, but also will have a deeper understanding and insight toward music as a whole with a more diverse perspective. For example, the "C" note for flutists is the "G" note for horn players, and is the "D" for trumpeters. It is fascinating to imagine how different the worlds of other instrument players are, although all of the members appear to produce the same sound from the same musical score. As a result, many concepts can be described with different terms and can be shared among people from various fields. In thinking about the aforementioned question, although the processes will vary depending on individual persons and fields, the first phase of becoming a flutist may be achieved at the undergraduate level. The next phase of becoming a member of the orchestra may start later, that is, at the graduate level, in which you will have to keep independently developing yourself as a flutist at the same time.

In fact, when you study at an interdisciplinary setting, difficult experiences may come first before feeling pleasure in expanding your capacities. You have to realize that you are still learning the phenomenon studied and may lose your confidence in becoming an expert of the field. You cannot help being humble and aware of the limitations of that you have in your field. Also, you may notice your preoccupations with other fields as well, as you may be shocked by other people's prejudices toward your field. That is why interdisciplinary activities are meaningful for the development of science so that you can contribute a more objective and broader perspective to society.

Let's think about what should be done to develop an interdisciplinary science, referring to organizing an orchestra again. For example, in case of an orchestra, the best combination of instruments depends on what music the musicians want to play. In thinking of Child Science, what common research topics shall we want to study together? Next, the taste of the orchestra may vary from conductor to conductor. For research in Child Science, who should take the leadership role? What kind of philosophy would the leaders have? Finally, in order to organize an orchestra, all the instruments should have a common seven-note scale. Also, all the musicians should be able to read music. We may need to discuss what kind of standard knowledge the researchers in Child Science should acquire in advance.

A recommendation for students studying in newly established Kodomogaku departments would be to find whatever you want to pursue first and then to become absorbed in it. The students are lucky to have exposures and interactions with peers who are engaged in other fields, which can prevent them from being restricted within a narrow and rigid view. The students should not be afraid of necessary conflicts and they should be assertive. For example, it is important not to take personally even if people from other fields criticize your field or your opinion. Lastly, it would be wonderful to have many colleagues with various expertise at hand when you find the strengths and the limitations of your own field and need more resources to solve a problem.

Acknowledgement
I am thankful to Mrs. Miwa Takei for presenting the interesting question in the conference and to Mr. Makoto Kinoshita for the highly helpful discussion with me.
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