The Arts and Humanities are the realms in and through which we define values, form relationships, express our thoughts, feel, imagine, process, and create. The study of the Arts and Humanities provides a basic toolkit for personal and professional success: how to communicate what we think; how to interpret what we read, see and hear; how to understand and respond to difference.
Study within humanistic disciplines hones precisely the skills needed to navigate a world marked by rapid change, increasing interdependence, transformative technologies, and multimedia communications. The Arts and Humanities are unique in their potential to help students develop the skills and wisdom needed to thrive in the digitized, globalized, discovery-driven economy of the twenty-first century.
For the past eighteen months, over forty faculty members in Harvard’s Division of Arts and Humanities have devoted themselves to studying the history and significance of the humanistic tradition and to exploring the ways in which it informs civic discourse, cultural identities and personal understanding. One group, headed by Professors James Simpson and Sean Kelly, has written two of the documents posted here: The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College: Mapping The Future, and In Brief: Mapping The Future.
Another group, led by Professors Julie Buckler and Hisa Kuriyama, has written a set of curricular recommendations that set out to design new curricular and extra-curricular pathways into the Arts and Humanities, more effectively integrate academic work in our division, and further a culture of collective engagement and interaction among our colleagues. A third report is the work of Professor Homi Bhabha, Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center. I am delighted to share with you the results of their labors, and to express my deep gratitude for their extraordinary work.
These reports, pinpointing some clear historical trends and definitively separating facts from untested assumptions, provide a sturdy foundation on which to base our future efforts. Though varied in tack and emphasis, these efforts share a common goal: the collective assertion of the humanities as an essential foundational element in American liberal arts education. The domains they characterize are the domains of freedom and justice, of reason and goodness, of beauty and right and perhaps even of truth.
Dean for Arts and Humanities