Arguments for the Value of the Humanities

NHA's Four Arguments for the Value of the Humanities emphasize the critical roles that the humanities play in meeting important national goals: opportunity for all Americans, innovation and economic competitiveness, productive global engagement, and strong communities. 


Promoting Opportunity for All Americans

The humanities are a basic component of the broad-based, lifelong education that should form the basis of opportunity for all Americans.

  • All students deserve a strong, rigorous humanities component at all levels of their education.
  • Humanities disciplines teach essential skills and habits including reading, writing, critical thinking, and effective communication that are crucial for ensuring that each individual has the opportunity to learn and become a productive member of society.
  • Humanities disciplines teach essential information about the world around us including historical knowledge and cultural literacy.
  • The humanities foster the skills that employers seek.


Fostering Innovation and Economic Competitiveness

Our nation’s long-term economic success depends on cultivating a broadly-educated workforce ready to compete in the knowledge-based, global economy of the 21st century.

  • Employers predict that future economic growth will come from cultural knowledge and analytical ability paired with technical knowledge and scientific research.
  • The United States has exemplary humanities programs in its colleges and universities, and many countries are working to emulate these in order to boost their own economic competitiveness.
  • Workforce development experts argue that humanities courses need to be better integrated into the educational requirements of non-humanities majors to ensure that they develop the skills that will lead to innovation.


Ensuring Productive Global Engagement

Deep language proficiency, historical knowledge, and cultural literacy are critical to productive diplomatic and economic engagement with the world.

  • Humanities disciplines cultivate and maintain deep knowledge of the languages, cultures, and histories of rapidly changing areas of the world that national security, diplomatic, and business communities regularly draw upon to understand the contexts in which they work.
  • Maintaining this deep capacity for all areas of the world is critical for informed diplomacy, business engagement, and national security.


Strengthening Civic Knowledge and Practice

The humanities promote reasoned, informed dialogue that is critical to productive civic life.

  • Humanities research, teaching, and public programs promote the cultivation and dissemination of knowledge about civic institutions, citizen participation, and the foundations of community.
  • The humanities promote the understanding of our common ideals, enduring civic values, and shared cultural heritage.
  • The humanities promote understanding among diverse communities through the cultivation and exchange of knowledge about cultural heritage and history.


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