Vermont Humanities Council commends national report on the humanities

News Release — Vermont Humanities Council
June 25, 2013

Contact
Sylvia Plumb, Director of Communications, 802.262.2626 x302
OR
Peter Gilbert, Executive Director, 802.262.2626 x 300

 

Montpelier, Vermont – The Vermont Humanities Council joins the call for a renewed commitment to the humanities outlined in a just-released national report, The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation. The report was requested by a bipartisan group of Congress — Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), and Rep. David Price (D-NC) — and prepared by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS) Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The report posits that reinvigorating the humanities is essential to achieving three goals vital to US national security, economy, and democracy:

· Educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in a twenty-first-century democracy.

· Foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong.

· Equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.

The humanities promote these goals by cultivating critical reasoning, empathy, creativity, curiosity, flexibility, and knowledge of history, civics, languages, and other cultures, among others.

To renew this commitment to the humanities, the report urges increased federal funding for the humanities, including more support for state humanities councils and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The report also calls for heightened funding from businesses, foundations, donors, state governments, and public-private partnerships.

On the 53-member commission are people such as David Brooks, Ken Burns, George Lucas, Yo-Yo Ma, David Souter, the chancellor of the University of Texas system and the presidents of Boeing, the National Academy of Engineering, the Getty Trust, Cornell, Harvard, Notre Dame, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford.

“It is gratifying that this enormously distinguished commission argues so forcefully for greater public and private support for the humanities,” says Peter A. Gilbert, Vermont Humanities Council Executive Director. “When such an eminent group has explained the importance of the humanities to our nation’s security, economy, and democracy, I hope that Congress and the American public will take note. As this report makes abundantly clear, the humanities and social sciences are essential to virtually every aspect of our individual and collective well-being, and they require our financial and cultural support in hard times as well as good.”

The Vermont Humanities Council is a vital and active part of Vermont’s cultural fabric, impacting towns large and small and people across economic lines. In 2012, VHC presented and supported 1,100 lectures, book discussions, literacy programs, and other humanities events in nearly 150 Vermont communities, including towns in every county.

VHC’s literacy programs affect people in profound ways, building reading, comprehension, and writing skills and inspiring children, adults, teen parents, and correctional inmates disadvantaged by economics and education to dream of living their lives differently.

VHC’s public programs – lectures, reading and discussion, workplace conversations – take place in libraries, community centers, and hospitals across Vermont virtually any night.

In all, VHC reached tens of thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds, and donated 16,584 books to children and adults.

The report applauds the state humanities councils and other public humanities organizations for promoting lifelong learning, individual well-being, and strong communities. Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, describes in the report how councils foster a vibrant democracy:

By educating low-income people in the full range of humanities disciplines, by bringing new immigrants into the fabric of their American communities, by forging partnerships with state and local governments to strengthen the cultural and educational infrastructure of their states, the humanities councils are making real the idea that a wise and visionary citizenry is the underpinning of a healthy civic life and a thriving democracy.

The report’s chapter titled “Cultural Institutions and Lifelong Learning” begins with a pull-quote by VHC Executive Director Peter A. Gilbert: “Public humanities programs in the areas of K-12 and lifelong learning are more important than ever because education, more than ever, involves not just schools, but their communities and the larger social context. If society doesn’t honor learning, encourage curiosity, it’s hard for schools to succeed. If learning stops when formal school stops, then the knowledge and understanding of America’s workforce and citizenry will be inadequate by any measure.”

The state councils will play a key role in the report’s impact. The Federation of State Humanities Councils is working with AAAS and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to hold events across the country. State councils will partner with State Library Agencies or other organizations to host conversations about the report’s recommendations and their application to states and local communities.

The Vermont Humanities Council welcomes these conversations as an important next step, and urges all Vermonters to do their part to make these recommendations a reality.

###

Link to the Report:

The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation

About the Vermont Humanities Council

The Vermont Humanities Council is a private nonprofit working to bring the power and the pleasure of the humanities to all Vermonters—of every background and in every community. The Council strives to make Vermont a state in which every individual reads, participates in public affairs, and continues to learn throughout life. For more information, www.vermonthumanities.org.

About the Federation of State Humanities Councils
The Federation of State Humanities Councils, founded in 1977, is the membership association of 55 state and territorial councils. Through its program of research, conferences, collaborative projects, and communication to members, legislators and others on issues of public interest, the Federation provides support for the state humanities councils and strives to create greater awareness of the humanities in public and private life. For more information about the Federation, see http://www.statehumanities.org/.

Media Enquiries
Vermont Humanities Council
Contact: Sylvia Plumb, Director of Communications, 802.262.2626 x302 OR Peter Gilbert, Executive Director, 802.262.2626 x 300

Federation of State Humanities Councils
Contact: Esther Mackintosh, President 703-908-9700

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  • The Vermont Humanities Council is an amazing organization and congratulations to Peter Gilbert for his thoughtful commentary in the report. However, the report itself shows how limited the debate about the humanities has become and doesn’t focus enough on the great work of the humanities councils and other public humanities organizations. I’ve written about this at maryrizzo.net.

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