Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Editorial: A complete education includes humanities

Duke president Richard Brodhead, left, talks during a meeting of the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, as commission member and columnist David Brooks looks on.
Published Jun. 21, 2013

The humanities and social sciences have been under attack by Gov. Rick Scott and other politicians who are insisting on a more direct connection between university studies and specific jobs. Now an encouraging new report to Congress provides a path to promoting the humanities, such as philosophy and literature, as critical components in higher education and in creating well-rounded citizens.

Called "The Heart of the Matter," the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' report outlines recommendations from kindergarten through college and beyond. It sets three worthy goals for the humanities: provide the knowledge, skills and understanding Americans need in a modern democracy; foster innovation and competition; and focus on global leadership.

Career-oriented fields in the hard sciences are indispensable. But their importance does not negate the humanities, which are vital in honing skills of critical thought, reason and debate. Humanities provide a framework to understand the world, educating students broadly about civics, leadership, language and more. The report suggests a new program to create a fleet of "master teachers" who are well-trained to advance education in the humanities, similar to today's master teacher corps geared toward science, technology, engineering and math fields. A renewed focus on "qualities of mind" would stress inquisitiveness, inventiveness, critical analysis and the communication skills that are so essential in all disciplines.

Less than a quarter of eighth- and 12th-grade students are proficient in reading, writing and civics, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress test. Yet as the economy faltered, humanities budgets were slashed. Getting the fragmented curriculum back on track requires renewed attention to the basics of literacy, civics and history. The report calls for bridging the gap between primary, secondary and higher education by uniting teachers through conversation, which could bring more cohesion to the system.

Other recommendations underscore the importance — and feasibility — of major changes in the approach toward teaching humanities at all levels. Increased online resources would help bolster learning for all students, especially the disadvantaged. Stronger qualifications for teachers would boost proficiency in individual subjects and increase the likelihood that a teacher has a degree in his or her discipline. More funding for international studies would teach students to think globally. To fund humanities research, the report calls for investment from both federal and philanthropic sources.

Humanities complement the STEM fields, and in today's fast-paced world, it's more crucial than ever to have the broad knowledge base they provide. The report says more than half of employers call a liberal education very important. Scott and other politicians so intent on linking higher education directly to jobs should keep that in mind the next time they question the value of an anthropology course.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o has written a children's book called Sulwe, about a girl who "was born the color of midnight."[Photo (2014) by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP] File photo
    Most white people have never heard of skin lightening cream or the “paper bag test,” where your fiance can be no darker than a paper sack. | Leonard Pitts Jr.
  2. Ayana Lage, 26, and Vagner Lage, 27, pose with a sonogram of their unborn child. Ayana writes openly about going through a miscarriage due to the baby having a rare genetic defect. She wonders why more women don't discuss their miscarriages. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Sunday’s letters to the editor
  3. Kreshae Humphrey, 26, applies ointments to the skin of her 3-year-old daughter, Nevaeh Soto De Jesus, after bathing her in bottled water. The parents bathe all three of their girls with bottled water because they believe the children were sickened by the tap water at the Southern Comfort mobile home park off U.S. 19 in Clearwater. The family is suing the park's owner over the issue, but the owner and the state say there are no problems with the drinking water there. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The story of a Clearwater mobile home park and its water issues reflects a systemic breakdown.
  4. A long stretch of US 98 remains closed for repairs in Mexico Beach on Friday, September 27, 2019, almost one year after Hurricane Michael made landfall in the small coastal town. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Time is running out, so let’s get practical, says Craig Fugate
  5. FROM PRINT: Adam Goodman, national Republican media consultant
    Sure, fix capitalism’s flaws, but a wealth tax is not the way. | Adam Goodman
  6. 
 CLAY BENNETT  |  Chattanooga Times Free Press
  7. A view of the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and waterfront from over Tampa Bay.
    The news that the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation wants to change its name to include “Tampa Bay” has been met with resistance.
  8. Catherine Rampell, Washington Post columnist.
    Allegations of political cowardice can seem rich coming from candidates unwilling to acknowledge the obvious truths about things such as higher taxes. | Catherine Rampell
  9. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, former Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., raise their hands to speak during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
  10. Yesterday• Opinion
    Letters to the Editor Graphic TARA MCCARTY  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Saturday’s letters to the editor
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement