Academy of Arts and Sciences (USA): Report on the State and the Future of the Humanities

On June 19, 2013, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences published its report “The Heart of the Matter” on the state and value of the humanities and social sciences. The “Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences,” as it is called, was formed two years ago in response to Congress’s request to know how “to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education.”

The report arrives at a moment when others are sounding the alarm. In a report issued last week, Harvard University said that humanities majors there had fallen to 20 percent in 2012 from 36 percent in 1954 — a grim figure until you consider that, nationwide, just 7 percent of bachelor’s degrees were awarded in the humanities in 2010, down from 14 percent in 1966.

 The report states that “there is no reason liberal arts education cannot flourish in a new environment using new tools. The future will still need the human skills that the liberal arts promote, and perhaps will need them more than ever: skills in communication, interpretation, linking and synthesizing domains of knowledge, and imbuing facts with meaning and value”.

The central message is  that thriving long-term in the job market depends on developing “qualities of mind: inquisitiveness, perceptiveness, the ability to put a received idea to a new purpose, and the ability to share and build ideas with a diverse world of others.”

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