David Carl Wilson, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, was one of 15 area leaders who testified before the American Academy Commission on the Humanities & Social Sciences during a forum titled “The Importance of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Local Communities.” Wilson made remarks about higher education at the Sept. 7 event, which was held at the Missouri History Museum.
Dean Wilson’s comments focused on defining and defending the humanities. He defined the humanities as “the disciplines that study the creative and reflective expression of the human spirit,” including language, literature, history, music, art, religion, philosophy, and more.
Wilson told the commission that such study often requires a defense in the modern world. He said that some critics charge that the humanities, unlike the sciences, make no progress; still others charge that the humanities don’t prepare people for the job market.
Wilson said that we value scientific progress because it gives us the chance to have richer and more meaningful lives, and that we value our jobs for the same reason. In summation, he said that the humanities—the ability to understand and appreciate the creative and reflective expressions of the human spirit—are critical for richer and more meaningful lives, both individually and collectively.
Answering a bipartisan call from senators and congressional representatives, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences created the Commission on the Humanities & Social Sciences in 2011 to gather testimony about actions that can be taken to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship. After hearing testimony from around the United States, the commission will recommend specific steps that government, schools and universities, cultural institutions, businesses, and philanthropies can take to support and strengthen knowledge in these areas.