Report - Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

Report - Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

Who will lead America into a bright future

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.

The nation’s founders understood that their experiment in republican government—a

government bound by law and rooted in the consent of the governed—

depends on citizens who can think critically, understand their own history, and give

voice to their beliefs while respecting the views of others. These qualities are not born,

but taught, beginning with our youngest children. In fact, our first three presidents

emphasized general education as an indispensable component of future prosperity. 1

A general education is just as important today, and it is just as clear that it must include

the humanities and the social sciences. The humanities—including the study of languages,

literature, history, jurisprudence, philosophy, comparative religion, ethics, and

the arts—are disciplines of memory and imagination, telling us where we have been

and helping us envision where we are going. The social sciences—including anthropology,

archaeology, economics, political science, sociology, and psychology—are disciplines

of behavioral, interpersonal, and organizational processes, employing empirical

and scientific methods to reveal patterns in the lives of real people.

Together, they provide an intellectual framework and context for understanding and

thriving in a changing world, and they connect us with our global community. When

we study these subjects, we learn not only what but how and why. The humanities and

social sciences teach us to question, analyze, debate, evaluate, interpret, synthesize,

compare evidence, and communicate—skills that are critically important in shaping

adults who can become independent thinkers.

We live in a nation that has been built—thought by thought, discovery by discovery—on

a foundation of humanistic and social scientific scholarship, from our founding

rooted in Enlightenment philosophy to a future informed by the compilation and

The Heart of the Matter 17

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