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Humanities and Social Sciences are Vital to U.S. Competitiveness, Says Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission

6/23/2011

Press Release

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The humanities and social sciences are crucial to the global competitiveness of the United States, according to a group of prominent business, government, and academic leaders, artists, and scholars.

“There is national consensus that for the nation to remain competitive, we need to strengthen our grasp of science, technology, engineering, and math," said Richard Brodhead, President of Duke University and Co-chair of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ national Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. “But education isn't an either/or affair. Business leaders all recognize the need for communications skills and cross-cultural understanding. Our everyday life as citizens requires a sense of history, of personal values and the social good. A strong infrastructure for the humanities and social sciences – supported through our schools, libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions – is critical to our nation's health and the quality of our personal and communal life."

The American Academy Commission met in Chicago June 10-11 to explore ways to bolster teaching, research, and scholarship in all disciplines. The Academy organized the blue-ribbon commission at the request of a bipartisan group of members of Congress. It will meet several times over the next year before releasing a final set of recommendations.

Commission Co-chair John W. Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Exelon Corporation, noted that “the physical and natural sciences are inextricably linked with the humanities and social sciences. Excellence in one cannot be achieved without excellence – and broad-based support for – the other.”

Commission member Jim McNerney, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Boeing Company, sees a foundation in the liberal arts – encompassing the humanities as well as the social and physical sciences – as an important ingredient for becoming an effective leader. “Leadership is about the social and interpersonal skills that these disciplines teach,” McNerney said. “The breadth of the education experience is a primary source of leadership.”

At the group’s first full meeting, participants discussed the role of the humanities and social sciences in promoting a civil society and a creative, flexible workforce. The commission will formulate recommendations for how government officials, educators, business leaders, and philanthropists can strengthen the fields. A primary goal of the Commission, Rowe said, will be “to find new ways to state our case and identify new advocates to help us make it.”

Film producer, screenwriter, and director George Lucas is one such advocate. “The sciences teach us how. The humanities teach us why,” said Lucas, a member of the Commission. “You can’t continue to do the how without the why. If we ignore history, philosophy, and all of the other attempts to deal with the why, the how can become very dangerous.”

As President of the American Academy, Leslie Cohen Berlowitz has overseen its longstanding focus on the humanities and helped to organize the Commission. “We have convened a remarkably distinguished and diverse group of Americans who care deeply about the future of the country,” Berlowitz said. “The Academy is pleased to sponsor this initiative and we are confident that the Commission will help humanists and social scientists find new ways of describing their work to the public.”

A complete list of Commission members can be found here.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (www.amacad.org) is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science and technology policy; global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,300 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world.

 

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