Arne Duncan: Arts and Humanities are Essential

As core academic subjects, Arts and Humanities are essential to a well-rounded, Pre K-12 education for all Americans, says Ed Secretary Arne Duncan.

In a blog at ED.gov the Secretary of Education makes a strong point for Arts and Humanities in our schools. He believes the subjects are essential in equipping young people with the tools to “learn from the past, question the present and envision new possibilities for the future”.

Duncan comes out in support of the President, rejecting the notion that the arts, history, foreign languages, geography, and civics are a luxury we can ill-afford in a tough economy. Duncan evoked Obama’s proclamation that the arts and humanities “often challenge us to consider new perspectives and to rethink how we see the world”, as embodied in Norman Rockwell’s famous “The Problem We Live With” that hangs just outside the Oval Office.

It was recently announced by the White House that October will be named National Arts and Humanities Month.

There is a momentum behind the advocacy of the ‘liberal arts’, as the  Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has recently awarded the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences a $2.9 million grant, which will be used to expand humanities initiatives at the University, writes Baylee Molloy at The Cavalier Daily.

Meredith Woo, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, announced in an email that the grant has been allocated to aid the University strength the faculty, create new courses and begin researching two new emerging cross-disciplinary areas: environmental humanities and comparative cultures of the pre-modern world.

“The first area will help our students think deeply about their place in their natural surroundings, as well as the impact and presence of our environment in the way we think about every facet of our lives,” Woo said. “The second area will deepen our understanding of the evolution of our cultures and our awareness of other civilizations in relationship to ours.”

In explaining why he believes arts and humanities are prescient, Duncan said that the study of history and civics provides students with a perspicacity far beyond the present and that the study of geography and culture helps build a greater sense of space and time.

The Secretary of Education went on that the study of drama, dance, music, and the visual arts helps students “explore realities that cannot be summarized simply or even expressed in words or numbers”.

 “I urge all America’s school leaders – superintendents, principals, and school boards – to embrace a well-rounded education for all students. Our schools need to sustain arts and humanities programs where they are robust, and strengthen them where they are not. As President Obama notes, a well-rounded education will give students opportunities to be “the creative thinkers of tomorrow.””

A College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences press release says that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant will establish fellowships for doctoral students as well as seminars aimed at preparing them for teaching in an increasingly competitive academic job market.

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