July 1, 2013
Are the humanities the ‘heart of the matter’?

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a report on June 19 titled The Heart of the Matter:  The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation. The report (which was requested by Congress), aims to highlight the importance of humanities and social sciences to the future of our nation and posits that reinvigorating the humanities is essential to achieving three vital national goals:

  • Educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in a 21st-century democracy.
  • Foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong.
  • Equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.

The conversation quickly jumped to the media. Here are a few highlights:

“STUDYING the humanities should be like standing among colleagues and students on the open deck of a ship moving along the endless coastline of human experience. Instead, now it feels as though people have retreated to tiny cabins in the bowels of the ship, from which they peep out on a small fragment of what may be a coastline or a fog bank or the back of a spouting whale.” Read more.

 – From “The Decline and Fall of the English Major” The New York Times

“The commission ignores that for several decades America’s colleges and universities have produced graduates who don’t know the content and character of liberal education and are thus deprived of its benefits.” Read more.

 – From “Illiberal Education and ‘The Heart of the Matter'” The Wall Street Journal

“A liberal-arts education combined with STEM disciplines could improve innovation and inventiveness among the American workforce, according to the report, but there has been a diminished focus on, and funding for, humanities and social sciences.” Read more.

 – From “Report: Humanities, social science education needed for innovation along with STEM”  The Washington Post

What do you think? Read the report (or at least the executive summary) and weigh in on the conversation below.

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