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Common Reading 2021: Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by Randy Robertson

Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by Randy Robertson

In this book review, Randy Robertson discusses the idea that specialization may serve more as a hinderance rather than a help. In some cases, technological advancements are taking over jobs, leaving many unemployed people with specialized knowledge that is no longer needed. Academic institutions need to adapt to a changing job market, and understand that incoming freshman may not be ready to decide on a career path. Furthermore, Robertson asserts that having a greater range of general knowledge can make you a better citizen. This is where a liberal arts education comes into play. Having a broad education spanning multiple disciplines will facilitate everyday life as well as improve our society at the individual level. 

About the Author

Randy Robertson is an associate professor at Susquehanna University. He is the author of Censorship and Conflict in Seventeenth-Century England, which was published by Penn State Press. Robertson is the reviews editor of Modern Language Studies.

Discussion Questions

1. How did you decide on your major? What factors (financial, personal, familial, etc.) influenced your decision?

2. Do you agree with Robertson’s argument for a broader, more generalized education? Why or why not?

Class Activity

Pair up with a classmate who's major, work, or interests are significantly different from yours. Brainstorm ways that your areas of expertise can intersect and inform one another. Make a list and prepare to share with the class.

Introduction — Theresa Finley

“What’s your major?” Let’s admit it, this question can be intimidating, especially as an incoming student. I remember I felt so much pressure to choose a major before starting college. I was certain I had to make the right choice at the start and not change my major down the road. To me, the idea of changing my major felt like giving up and admitting defeat. So I chose a major and everything was great...until my junior year, that is, when I realized I wasn’t as passionate about my classes as my friends and I wondered what it would mean if I changed my major. But rather than feeling defeated, I felt a burden lifted. I realized that I had focused so closely on that one major and had ultimately ended up specializing in a subject I didn’t enjoy.

Robertson addresses the problems of specialization, like focusing on a single subject, in the review of David Epstein’s book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. In your time at Susquehanna, you will take courses in the central curriculum that are outside your major. As you read the article, think about how these classes could help you could broaden your range and avoid the pitfalls of specialization. How could being a generalist help you be adaptable in your future career?

Andrew Epstein's TED Talk, "Why Specializing Early Doesn't Always Mean Career Success"

Additional Resources

Read the Review at Heterodox Academy

Get Involved!

SU students can register for a Snyder County Libraries library card and access thousands of books, DVDs, audiobooks, and other materials. For more information, visit the Snyder County Libraries website or visit the library. 

Read the book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World at Rudy Gelnett Library


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