small-seal


pblog
AMC alumni Mag Autumn 2013
Dr. Jack Calareso

Dr. Jack Calareso

Jack P. Calareso, Ph.D.
President of Anna Maria College

I want to conclude my discussion of the report from the Commission on the Humanities and the Social Sciences entitled, The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation, with some comments about why I think this report is so important.

Some have said that there is nothing new in this report. That the recommendations are all fairly self-evident and simply restate commonly understood values and learning objectives of education. For those who believe this, I would suggest that they may be unaware of the current state of education and the slow but persistent erosion of the emphasis on the humanities and the social sciences.

Education at both the K-12 and higher education levels is moving towards a skill-based system where the goal is preparation for professional careers. Research is increasingly focused on STEM. While this is certainly valuable, it is not sufficient. This report is important because it emphasizes the need for both balance and a holistic approach.

Education must include the sciences and the arts. Education must be both practical and aesthetic. Education must help to form the whole person. Education must help students to live personal lives of fulfillment and citizenship as well as becoming globally competitive. Education must engender civility and acceptance so that we can live in diversity and harmony.

Perhaps the reason this report resonates the most with me is because of its focus on leadership. As I referenced two weeks ago, the report asks and answers a very important question: “Who will lead America into a bright future?”   Their answer, “Citizens who are educated in the broadest possible sense, so that they can participate in their own governance and engage with the world. An adaptable and creative workforce. Experts in national security, equipped with the cultural understanding, knowledge of social dynamics, and language proficiency to lead our foreign service and military through complex global conflicts. Elected officials and a broader public, who exercise civil political discourse, founded on an appreciation of the ways our differences and commonalities have shaped our rich history. We must prepare the next generation to be these future leaders.”

From its very founding, this country has been built on the notion that our democracy depends on “citizens who can think critically, understand their own history, and give voice to their beliefs while respecting the views of others.” As this report emphasizes, these qualities are not innate, they must be taught. And in our current society, they are so rarely modeled in public discourse and government that education must overcome the perception that incivility and partisan, ad hominem behavior is acceptable.

As this report concludes, “(The humanities and the social sciences) go beyond the immediate and instrumental to help us understand the past and the future. They are necessary and they require our support in challenging times as well as in times of prosperity. They are critical to our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness as described by our nation’s founders. They are The Heart of the Matter.”  I agree.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Last week I began my discussion of a recent report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, developed by its Commission on the Humanities and the Social Sciences entitled, “The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation.”  Last week I provided an overview of the report and shared why I believe this report is so important.  This week, I want to begin to discuss the content in more detail.

 

The report focuses its analyses and recommendations on five areas:1) K-12 Education; 2) Two and Four Year Colleges; 3) Research; 4) Cultural Institutions and Lifelong Learning; and, 5) International Security and Competitiveness.

 

In each of these areas, the Commission’s recommendations are framed by three overarching goals that they believe cannot be achieved by science alone:

 

1. To educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in the twenty-first century democracy;

2. To foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong; 

3. To equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.

 

Here are their overall recommendations related to each of these goals:

 

To educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in the twenty-first century democracy.

Because education in the humanities and social sciences not only allow learning about the “what”, but also the “how” and “why”, the Commission recommends:

     -Support for full literacy as the foundation for all learning;

     -Investment in the preparation of citizens; 

     -Increased access to online resources, including teaching materials.

 

To foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong.

Because the ability to adapt and thrive in a changing world requires “the development of professional flexibility, inquisitiveness, perceptiveness, the ability to put a received idea to a new purpose, and the capacity to share and build ideas with others," the Commission recommends:

     -Increased investment in research and discovery;

     -The creation of cohesive curricula to ensure basic competencies;

     -Strengthening support for teachers; 

     -Encouraging all disciplines to address “Grand Challenges; 

     -Communicating the importance of research to the public.

 

To equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.

In order to participate in the global economy, we need to understand diverse cultures and be sensitive to different perspectives, the Commission recommends,

     -Promotion of language learning;

     -Expansion of education in international affairs and transnational studies;

     -Support for study abroad and international exchange programs; 

     -The development of a “Culture Corps.”

 

These are ambitious goals and recommendations.  But they are central to individual and national competitiveness and success.  Next week, more details and some of my thoughts and reflections.

 

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

 

For the past two weeks, I have written about the value of even a limited amount of college education. While a degree is critical to professional success in every way, the report by the Hamilton Group provided evidence that starting college, even if a degree is not completed, is an important and valuable investment.

If you read my blog last week, I ended with the sentence, And we havent even mentioned the value of a liberal education!  Well, for the next few weeks, thats the focus of my comments. Specifically, I just completed reading a thoughtful and compelling report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, developed by its Commission on the Humanities and the Social Sciences.

The report is entitled, The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation.  Its genesis represents an all too rare bi-partisan effort. The report was commissioned by a quartet of lawmakers: Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Representative Thomas Petri of Wisconsin both Republicans; Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Representative David Price of North Carolina both Democrats. The charge from these congressional members was:

What are the top actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors, and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the 21st century? 

This report is viewed by its authors as a complement to the 2007 publication of, Rising Above the Gathering Storm.  The 2007 report generated from the scientific community and was intended to strengthen STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and to encourage new and expanding funding for scientific research.

The Commission that produced The Heart of the Matter was comprised of 54 members including scholars, business executives, scientists, philanthropists, engineers and artists. The members were drawn from higher education, the corporate world, both the public and private sectors, government service, foundations and the arts.

In producing this report, the Commission was guided by three overarching goals that they believe cannot be achieved by science alone:

1.      To educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in the twenty-first-century democracy;

2.      To foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong; and,

3.      To equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.

My interest in this report was heightened by the very first prefatory page. The Commission asks, Who will lead America into a bright future?   Their answer,

Citizens who are educated in the broadest possible sense, so that they can participate in their own governance and engage with the world. An adaptable and creative workforce. Experts in national security, equipped with the cultural understanding, knowledge of social dynamics, and language proficiency to lead our foreign service and military through complex global conflicts. Elected officials and a broader public, who exercise civil political discourse, founded on an appreciation of the ways our differences and commonalities have shaped our rich history. We must prepare the next generation to be these future leaders. 

Liberal education and leadership development two of my core values. More about this important report in the coming weeks.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Last week I began sharing the results of a study entitled, “Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad?”  This research was released by the Hamilton Project which is part of the Brookings Institution. The goal of this study was to analyze the effect of starting, but not finishing, a two-year or a four-year college degree. Here is what they found.

Those who started college but did not complete a degree had lifetime earnings of approximately $100,000 more (in present value) than their peers who only completed high school. If analyzed in terms of rate of return rather than actual dollars, the study concluded that some college is a far better investment than any “conventional investment including stocks, bonds, and real estate.”  Of course the study also points out that the return on some college is far less than completing a degree.

The study also finds that there is a correlation between education and employment opportunities. For example, the unemployment rates in April 2013 (based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data) were as follows:

-       Age 25 or older without a high school diploma – 11.4%

-       Age 25 or older with a high school diploma – 7.2%

-       Age 25 or older with an associate’s degree – 5.0%%

-       Age 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher – 3.6%

These disparities are even greater when an analysis is done on the employment-to-population ratio. These data reflect that only 39.9% of all individuals without a high school diploma hold a job; only 54.5% of all individuals with only a high school diploma hold a job; only 68.6% of all individuals with an associate’s degree hold a job; and, 73.2% of all individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher hold a job.

What is most interesting and unique to this report is the evidence that of those with only some college, 60.9% hold a job. Clearly, some college improves employment opportunities as well as income potential.

The final area addressed by this study is the jobs gap in this country. Since the Great Recession in December 2007, this country has experienced a jobs gap of 9.9 million jobs. Even if job creation reaches the highest levels during the pre-recession years, this gap will not be closed until 2017-2020.

The point made by this study is that with limited job opportunities and a slow recovery, those entering or in the workforce will need the necessary skills and every competitive advantage. Education is definitely a key.

Some people continue to question whether or not college is a good investment. But the data is clear. It is a good investment in terms of job opportunity. It is a good investment in terms of lifetime earnings. And it is a better investment than other conventional investment opportunities. And we haven’t even mentioned the value of a liberal education!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Over the years, I have written about the value of a college degree. Study after study reflects the clear value of earning at least a bachelor’s degree in terms of earnings over a lifetime, professional success, personal satisfaction and levels of community engagement. But a recent study released by the Hamilton Project entitled, “Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad?” piqued my interest.

The Hamilton Project began in 2006 as an economic policy initiative at the Brookings Institution. It is named after Alexander Hamilton, this country’s first Secretary of the Treasury, who is credited with laying the foundation for the modern American economy.

The Project brings together “leading academics, business people, and public policy makers who wanted to develop a serious, systematic strategy to address the challenges that our economy faces.”  The Project regularly publishes papers and books and sponsors events intended to both inform and encourage the national debate on the nation’s economy including topics like economic security, energy and health care.

Its self-described focus is as follows:

“From its first strategy paper, the Project set forth a clear policy path to promote our nation’s economic health, a strategy based on three interrelated principles: that economic growth must be broad-based to be strong and sustainable over the long term; that economic security and economic growth can be mutually reinforcing; and that an effective government can improve economic performance. These ideas, especially in combination, offer a strikingly different vision from the economic policies that contributed to the alarming trends in rising income inequality and a mounting federal deficit.”

This most recent report analyzed the nation’s employment statistics. As you may recall, 175,000 new jobs were added in May. However, the unemployment rate moved up to 7.6%. According to the Hamilton Project’s analysis, “the broadest measure of employment --- the employment-to-population ratio --- was 58.6%, the same as a year ago. It has remained roughly at the same level since late 2009.”

The report goes on to remind us that the analysis of employment data over the past years has consistently shown two important things:

-       Workers with more education continue to be employed at higher rates than their less educated counterparts; and,

-       Workers with more education continue to earn more than their less educated counterparts.

As so many reports have shown, the rates of return attributed to two-year, four-year and graduate degrees are high.

But “Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad?” asks and answers a very important question… what is the impact for people who start a two-year or four-year degree, but fail to complete their degree program? This question is important in relation to understanding employment data, but also in light of the increasing costs of education and the amount of debt all students incur regardless of the length of their college career.

This study provides very compelling evidence that even just starting college has a positive impact on a person’s career earnings. And next week, I will share more of the details. It will be worth the wait!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)