The humanities and public life

American Academy of Arts and Sciences explores state of humanities education nationally

WUSTL’s Gerald Early and Leslie Berlowitz, president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, lead a meeting of the academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences in the Missouri History Missouri Museum Sept. 7. Photo by Whitney Curtis/WUSTL Photo Services.

What is the state of the humanities? How are they taught, what do they teach us, and how do they serve the public good?

Earlier this month, cultural leaders from across Missouri (and a few representatives from Illinois and Oklahoma) gathered at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park to discuss “The Importance of the Humanities and Social Sciences for Public Life.”

The meeting — convened by WUSTL’s Gerald Early, PhD, the Merle Kling Professor Of Modern Letters and director of the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences — was the third in a series of regional forums presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. Sixteen speakers presented testimony about the role of the humanities and how they strengthen our daily lives.

“An educated citizenry is the wellspring of a strong democracy,” says Leslie C. Berlowitz, academy president. “From that citizenry, our leaders emerge. This forum provides an opportunity to focus on how we can ensure that Americans develop the skills and competencies required for full engagement in the international community — the skills and competencies fostered by the humanities and social sciences.”

Formed at the behest of U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Vir.) and Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and David Price (D-N.C.), the bipartisan commission aims to claim space in the national dialogue for the humanities and the social sciences, and to recommend specific steps that government, schools and universities, cultural institutions, businesses and philanthropies can take to support and strengthen these areas of knowledge.

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