Educators, artists, lawmakers urge more emphasis on the arts

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

America needs to invest more in the humanities and social sciences in order to preserve its cultural identity and economic competitiveness, according to a new report on the role those subjects play in shaping the national character

The report issued Wednesday by American Academy of Social Sciences, entitled “The Heart of the Matter,” argues that the humanities and social sciences are essential, but under-funded and under-appreciated. They include subjects like literature, history, film and languages and the arts, as well as anthropology, economics and political science.

“As we strive to create a more civil public discourse, a more adaptable and creative workforce, and a more secure nation, the humanities and social sciences are the heart of the matter,” the report states.

It goes on to describe them as “the keeper of the republic – a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment and the ideals we hold in common.”

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., one of four members of Congress who called for the report in 2010, said the American education system has become an example for other countries, but “our own nation’s humanistic and social science research enterprise is shrinking as a result of financial pressures, as a result of shifting national priorities and sometimes, I fear, a dearth of leadership.”

Price spoke at a briefing about the report along with the two co-chairmen of the commission that produced it, Duke University President Richard Brodhead and John Rowe, the retired chairman of Exelon Corp.

The report only asks the federal government to pay “its modest fair share of the investment,” Brodhead said. State and local governments, businesses and philanthropic foundations also support these disciplines through support for libraries, museums and colleges and universities.

Brodhead and Rowe worked with 51 other prominent academics, philosophers, business leaders, and representatives of the arts. Among them were cellist Yo-Yo Ma, filmmakers Ken Burns and George Lucas, singer- songwriter Emmylou Harris, former Supreme Court Justice David Souter and Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron.

Brodhead said that at stake in their discussions over the past two years was the question of whether the United States would continue to produce people with the education needed for citizenship and the ability to play a role in a changing world.

He said that the debate over the quality of education in America has picked up steam, but has also narrowed. Much of the focus has been on the importance of the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math, to the exclusion of all else.

And much of the public debate about education also “tries to measure the value of education by looking at what can your education do for you the day after you graduate as measured in the job you get then and the income that day,” the Duke president and English professor added. “But ask anybody over the age of 22 and they will tell you the measure of your education is the measure of how it furnishes you for all the needs of life over the whole long course of your life.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the Founding Fathers were “great students of the humanities” and drew ideas about the American system of government from what they studied. He said that what it means to be an American is defined by shared values.

“I think it’s fair to say that our wealth over the last couple centuries has come primarily through our technological innovation, but the American character has come from the humanities,” Alexander said.

Alexander was one of the four members of Congress who asked for the report. The others, besides Price, were Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis.

The report offers a dozen recommendations, including the promotion of foreign language learning and creation of a K-12 curriculum that includes emphasis on problem-solving, critical analysis and communication skills.

Another is a “Culture Corps” that would match up volunteer teachers with schools or other organizations “to transmit humanistic and social scientific expertise from one generation to the next.”

The report covered a broad part of American education at all stages and all parts of culture, Rowe said.

“We touch on Hollywood,” he said. “We touch on symphonies. We touch on television. We touch on all these things because that’s what the humanities and social sciences address – the entire array of human interaction, the matters that make life in complex societies both possible and worthwhile.”

Ken Burns on the humanities

Email: rschoof@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @reneeschoof

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
FILE - This Dec. 4, 2012 file photo shows Guardian newspaper editor Alan Rusbridger in London. The Obama administration knew in advance that the British government would oversee destruction of a newspaper’s hard drives containing leaked National Security Agency documents last year, newly declassified documents show. The White House had publicly distanced itself from doing the same against an American news organization.

    US given heads up about newspaper data destruction

    The Obama administration knew in advance that the British government would oversee destruction of a newspaper's hard drives containing leaked National Security Agency documents last year, newly declassified documents show. The White House had publicly distanced itself on whether it would do the same to an American news organization.

  • Kansas senator's longevity gives GOP foe opening

    Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts stoked the political brushfire he was hoping to smother during a recent Kansas City-area radio morning show.

  •  
FILE - In this June 26, 2014, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Biden is scheduled to address the National Governors Association conference in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, July 11, 2014.

    Fall elections loom over governors' meeting

    Partisan divisions over immigration, education and health care are intensifying as dozens of the nation's governors meet just months before elections thick with presidential implications.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category