Lax Education In Humanities, Social Sciences Sparks Outcry

A new report argues that humanities and social sciences are as essential to the country's economic and civic future as science and technology. The study by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences was commissioned in 2010 by a bipartisan group of members of Congress. It comes at a time when the value of the liberal arts is being challenged by economic and political forces.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

After years of focus in Washington, D.C., on improving science and math education in the country, now the humanities community is speaking out. Their message - we matter too - came in the form of a report. That report was released yesterday by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And it's raising alarms about the state of education in humanities and social sciences. NPR's Cory Turner has the story.

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: First, what is humanities? Think the study of languages, literature, history, philosophy and religion. And according to the report, the humanities - along with social sciences like economics and psychology - are being neglected in America. That's a problem, the report says, because the global economy requires skills that workers can only get studying the humanities. This isn't just about losing the arts; it's about losing money, power, and our place in the world.

PAULINE YU: The world has become interconnected. The more you know about other cultures, about other societies, the better you can function.

TURNER: Pauline Yu is president of the American Council of Learned Societies, and a commissioner behind the report. So is former Ambassador Karl Eikenberry - who says our national security is at stake.

KARL EIKENBERRY: If you're going to make your nation more secure, you have to have a cadre in the business world, in academe, in the military, in the diplomatic corps, that understands the world.

TURNER: The report suggests, among other things, that we double-down on the basics - reading, writing and speaking - and encourage students to learn languages and study abroad. It was requested in 2010 by a bipartisan group of congressmen, including Democrat David Price of North Carolina. He says the humanities don't just help us understand the world, but who we are as Americans.

REP. DAVID PRICE: We need an appreciation of our history, of what binds us together as a country. There's a base of knowledge that's required for good, intelligent citizenship.

TURNER: And the process, Price says, of teaching good citizens is in jeopardy. Cory Turner, NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.