The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation

Jun 11, 2013
  • Description

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. 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. Evidence of the particular needs of the humanities and social sciences now reaches us from every sector. Parents are not reading to their children as frequently as they once did. Humanities teachers, particularly in k-12 history, are even less well-trained than teachers of stem subjects. And funding to support international education has been cut by 41 percent in four years. Each of these pieces of evidence suggests a problem; together, they suggest a pattern that will have grave, long-term consequences for the nation.