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Civics Education Fights Back

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

In the midst of cuts to civic education budgets nationwide, the Academy of Arts and Sciences released a report arguing that a citizenry with a strong humanities and social studies education is crucial to the country’s future.

The report, titled “The Heart of the Matter,” aims to respond to the recent emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curricula.  Rather than supporting the humanities as a “stimulus to innovation and a source of social cohesion — we are instead narrowing our focus and abandoning our sense of what education has been and should continue to be — our sense of what makes America great,” the report says.

The report was commissioned by a bipartisan group of senators, including Republican Lamar Alexander from Tennessee. Alexander said the American character is defined “by a common set of ideals and principles that unite us as a country” and that “those ideals and principles have always been shared and learned through the study of history, philosophy and literature, but today their study is at risk.”

Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, outlined the cooperation that can take place between STEM and the humanities:

It is really the combination of skills and habits you learn from studying social science with knowledge you learn from STEM that leads to innovation . . .. This broad-based education creates people who are able to think creatively and analytically about problems more so than a very narrow specialized education.

Related: See Paul Cantor’s discussion of the humanities and civic life, as part of our series on the professions and civic culture.