The Heart of the Matter

Recently, the Congress of the USA published a very interesting report called “The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a vibrant, competitive and secure nation”.

The first question of this report was: Who will lead America into a bright future? And the answers of this report are:

-Citizens who are educated in the broadest possible sense, so that they can participate in their own governance and engage with the world.

-An adaptable and creative workforce.

– Experts in national security, equipped with the cultural understanding, knowledge of social dynamics, and language proficiency to lead our foreign service and military through complex global conflicts.

-Elected officials and a broader public who exercise civil political discourse founded on an appreciation of the ways our differences and commonalities have shaped our rich history.

America must prepare ourselves and invest in the next generation to be these enlightened leaders: “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 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”, as report say.

For the honorable members of the Commission, “the humanities remind us where we have been and help us envision where we are going. Emphasizing critical perspective and imaginative response, the humanities—including the study of languages, literature, history, film, civics, philosophy, religion, and the arts— foster creativity, appreciation of our commonalities and our differences, and knowledge of all kinds. The social sciences reveal patterns in our lives, over time and in the present moment. Employing the observational and experimental methods of the natural sciences, the social sciences—including anthropology, economics, political science and government, sociology, and psychology—examine and predict behavioral and organizational processes. Together, they help us understand what it means to be human and connect us with our global community.”

Scientific advances have been critical to the extraordinary achievements of the past century, and we must continue to invest in basic and applied research in the biological and physical sciences. But we also must invest more time, energy, and resources in research and education in the humanities and social sciences. We must recognize that all disciplines are essential for the inventiveness, competitiveness, security, and personal fulfillment of the American public.

At the very moment when China and some European nations are seeking to replicate our model of broad education in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences—as a stimulus to innovation and a source of social cohesion—we are instead narrowing our focus and abandoning our sense of what education has been and should continue to be—base the sense of what makes America great.

This report invites all stakeholders, public and private alike, to embrace a new commitment to collaboration, and a new sense of mutual obligation to the critical role of the humanities and social sciences for a vibrant democracy.

The report “The Heart of the Matter” identifies three goals and thirteen broad recommendations for advancing the humanities and social sciences in America. These 3 goals are:

Educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in a twenty-first-century
democracy.
Foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong.
Equip the nation for leadership inan interconnected world.
The principles for these 3 different goals are based in the appreciation that the humanities and social sciences provide an intellectual framework and context for understanding and thriving in a changing world. When people engage with these subjects, they learn not only what but how and why.

Otherwise, the ability to adapt and thrive in a changing world is based not only on instruction for specific jobs of today but also on the development of professional flexibility and long-term qualities of mind: inquisitiveness, perceptiveness, the ability to put a received idea to a new purpose, and the capacity to share and build ideas with others.

Finally, for the commission’s members the humanities and social sciences teach us about ourselves and others. They enable us to participate in a global economy that requires understanding of diverse cultures and sensitivity to different perspectives. And they make it possible for people around the world to work together to address issues of mutual importance, such as peace and sustainability.

Certainly, we live in a world characterized by change, and therefore a world dependent on the humanities and social sciences. How do we understand and manage change if we have no notion of the past? How do we understand ourselves if we have no notion of a society, a culture, or a world different from the one in which we live? How do we ensure our competitiveness in the global community? A fully balanced curriculum -including the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences- provides opportunities for integrative thinking and imagination, for creativity and discovery, and for good citizenship. The humanities and social sciences, in my opinión, are not merely elective, nor are the elite or elitist. They go beyond the immediate and instrumental to help us understand the past and the future. They are critical to a democratic society and they require our support.

Definitively, a great exercise, a great document, a great program, a great example. Could we make the same exercise? It will be fabulous. I want.

Tags: USA, humanities

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