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Commission Set Up to Improve Humanities, Social Science Studies

By guest blogger Michelle D. Anderson

As debate rages on about what American students should be studying to boost employment and sustain the nation's global competitiveness, one group has decided to draw attention to the declining state of humanities in light of the heavy emphasis on the "hard sciences."

In response to a bipartisan congressional request, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on Feb. 17 announced the creation of a commission that will improve teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.

Senators and House representatives from four states have charged the commission with determining the top ten actions that the congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, and others should take to ensure national excellence in the humanities and social science fields.

The commission's co-chairs are Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University; and John W. Rowe, chairman and chief executive officer of Exelon, a Chicago-based energy corporation.

Brodhead said the humanities and social sciences provide the intellectual framework for the nation's economic, political, and governing institutions and that people should understand the importance of liberal arts just as they understand the key role of math and science.

According to Indicators, a statistical project of the academy's Initiative for Humanities and Culture, humanities degrees, as a proportion of all bachelor's degrees, declined 46 percent over the past 30 years. Additionally, it found that, when tested, more than half of high school graduates in 2006 failed to demonstrate basic knowledge of history, civics and economic principles.

For more information about the new commission look out for Education Week's upcoming story and check out the Academy's website.

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