Monday, November 23, 2015

Mapping the Future: Teaching Arts and Humanities

Debate about the contemporary 'crises' facing the humanities us thriving. See, for example, the American Historical Association's 'Career Diversity for Historians' Project, the debates initiated by Armitage and Guldi (discussed in the Journal of the History of Ideas Blog), and a myriad of other examples.

The contribution of 'Mapping the Future: Teaching Arts and Humanities at Stanford' has been one of the best. This report argues: 

The Arts and Humanities are motivated by intellectual curiosity and desire to contribute positively to society.

At a more pragmatic level, the Arts and Humanities promote an emphasis on self-reflexivity about the nature of evidence. They acknowledge that statistics are vital, but will never give us the definitive truth of our situation; that images are not transparent to their referents but constructed artifacts with meanings circumscribed by context and caption; that the ‘objective’ and ‘real’ reflects specific economic interests, class backgrounds, and political ideologies.

The corollary of this understanding is a relational understanding of the truth, a sense that our own position in time and place is irreducibly part of the truth at which we arrive. This means that the terms of enquiry need to constantly evolve to reflect the changing conditions of the present.

Transferrable skills include strategic intelligence, inductive thinking and the exercise of practical judgment; cogent, critical thought; sophisticated skills in analysis and interpretation, and persuasive powers of speaking and writing.

These skills help to act adroitly in a digitized, globalized, discovery-driven economy marked by rapid change, increasing interdependence, transformative technologies, and multimedia communications.
The Stanford Humanities project articulates a broad set of transferrable competences thus:
  • the ability to absorb, analyze and interpret complex artifacts or texts, often of foreign provenance;
  • the capacity to write intelligently, lucidly, and persuasively;
  • the ability to participate effectively in deliberative conversation
  • the capacity to speak intelligently, lucidly and persuasively
The American Historical Association has a slightly revised list based on: communication, teamwork, numeracy, confidence:
  • Communication, in a variety of media and to a variety of audiences
  • Collaboration, the ability to work collaboratively toward a common goal especially with others who hold different opinions or values or don't share the same worldview
  • Quantitative literacy: a basic understanding of the ways numbers convey information
  • Intellectual self-confidence: The ability to quickly master information and form intelligent opinions beyond one’s expertise and to pivot among many tasks (i.e. the ability to step beyond the comfort zone of expertise and experience).
  • Digital literacy or engagement, which is not so much a separate skill set as a thread that runs through the previous four

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