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Humanities are the 'Heart of the Matter'

Humanities Tennessee joins the call for a renewed commitment to the humanities outlined in the national report, The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure NationThe report was requested by a bipartisan group of legislators – Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), and Rep. David Price (D-NC) – and prepared by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS) Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The report argues that reinvigorating the humanities is essential to achieving three vital national goals:

  • 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 in an interconnected world.

The humanities promote these goals by cultivating critical reasoning, empathy, creativity, curiosity, flexibility, and knowledge of history, civics, languages, and other cultures, among others.

To renew this commitment to the humanities, the report urges increased federal funding for the humanities, including more support for state humanities councils and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The report also calls for heightened funding from businesses, foundations, donors, state governments, and public-private partnerships.

The state humanities councils are intimately connected to this report in three ways. First, the councils played a key role in the report’s development.  AAAS held four regional forums to gather information for the report. The first forum focused on collecting council recommendations, and councils also participated in the other forums.

Second, the state humanities councils play a key role in the report’s discussion of cultural institutions. The report applauds the councils and other public humanities organizations for promoting lifelong learning, individual well-being, and strong communities. Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, describes in the report how councils foster a vibrant democracy:   

By educating low-income people in the full range of humanities disciplines, by bringing new immigrants into the fabric of their American communities, by forging partnerships with state and local governments to strengthen the cultural and educational infrastructure of their states, the humanities councils are making real the idea that a wise and visionary citizenry is the underpinning of a healthy civic life and a thriving democracy.

Third, the state councils will play a key role in the report’s impact. The Federation of State Humanities Councils is working with AAAS and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to hold events across the country. State councils will partner with State Library Agencies or other organizations to host conversations about the report’s recommendations and their application to states and local communities.

Humanities Tennessee welcomes these conversations as an important next step, and urges all Tennesseans to do their part to make these recommendations a reality.