The Heart of the Matter: Part I

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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.)

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Guest Thursday, 24 April 2014