Humanities and Social Sciences Are Central to National Goals: New Report!

Dear Commons Community,

For much of the past decade, the federal government  and the U.S. Department of Education have trumpeted the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines at all levels of education.   A new report commissioned by a bipartisan quartet of lawmakers seeks to bolster the humanities and social sciences, arguing that those disciplines are central to the nation’s civic, cultural, economic, and diplomatic future.The report, “The Heart of the Matter,” was produced by the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, a blue-ribbon panel that was formed by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at the lawmakers’ request. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The commission’s task was to identify what federal and state governments, universities, teachers, foundations, and individual donors can do to “maintain national excellence in humanities and social-scientific scholarship and education” to help achieve national goals.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Sen. Mark R. Warner, Democrat of Virginia, requested the report with Rep. Thomas E. Petri, Republican of Wisconsin, and Rep. David E. Price, Democrat of North Carolina.

The commission’s 54 members include scholars in the humanities and social sciences, as well as scientists, engineers, business executives, philanthropists, and artists.

The commission’s recommendations contain little in the way of grand plans requiring major public support; the report often calls for consortia of government, foundations, and businesses to foot the bill for such programs as graduate fellowships in the humanities and social sciences, the teaching of languages and culture, and increasing study-abroad opportunities.”

Bravo to these lawmakers and this long-overdue report even though it is mostly symbolic.


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