The Heart of the Matter

Yesterday the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences released their report—The Heart of the Matter:  The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation.   The report is the response to a bipartisan request from  members of Congress:  “What are the top actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors, and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the 21st century?”

Heart of the Matter cover

The three goals and thirteen recommendations articulate an agenda which resonates with me.

Goal 1:  Educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in a twenty-first-century democracy.  The National Archives has, from its beginnings, had an educational mission and today, as civic literacy is at its lowest ebb, that mandate is ever more important.  The creation of and access to online resources and teaching materials provide the tools for “citizens to participate meaningfully in the democratic process” articulated in one of the recommendations.

Goal 2:  Foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong.  Supporting innovative research and discovery through our National Historical Publications and Research Commission grants program has, since its creation, enhanced access to research content around the nation.  In addition, our nascent travel grants program, funded by the Foundation for the National Archives, addresses the “Increase investment in research and discovery” and “Communicate the importance of research to the public” recommendations associated with this goal.

Goal 3:  Equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.  Working with our international colleagues in the archive, library, and museum community we have myriad opportunities to share, learn, and support transnational research and study.  The International Open Government Partnership, for instance, provides a platform for such international collaboration.

I encourage you to read the report and think about how our work can contribute to the goals outlined.  To quote from the report:  “As we strive to create a more civil public discourse, a more adaptable and creative workforce, and a more secure nation, the humanities and social sciences are the heart of the matter, the keeper of the republic—a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment and the ideals we hold in common.”