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Strengthening Education Through the Humanities

One of California Humanities’ three primary strategic components, developed as part of our strategic refresh in 2015/2016, is focused on deeper engagement with K-12 and higher education. This strategy ensures that California’s students have a whole child education, rich in the benefits of the humanities–history, philosophy, languages, and more— alongside the arts and STEM subjects. Humanities education has experienced erosion over time, often left behind in the pursuit of STEM pressures, accountability measures, and an overall decrease in commitment to educating the whole child. For this reason, California Humanities is exploring how the humanities can regain a more central role in our public schools— the most democratic, equitable approach— not simply so young people can find future gainful employment, but because the arts and humanities build important life skills like character-building, critical thinking, empathy, self expression, civic dialogue skills, and creativity.

For the past 18 months, with support from the Panta Rhea and Stuart Foundations, we have been exploring what we can do to ensure that there is a pipeline of students who have access to humanities-focused education throughout their school career. We commissioned data analysis and research from SRI Education, a division of SRI International, resulting in a report which underlines with data the access and equity gap of humanities education across socioeconomic and age divides.  

SRI’s Principal Investigator, Katrina Woodworth, explained, “Although access to humanities education is vital to a student’s well-rounded education, our research findings showed many opportunities for improvement statewide. Educators and policymakers should note the discrepancy in access to advanced humanities courses, particularly in schools that are located in lower-income communities.”

California Humanities strives to connect Californians through ideas and understanding of our shared heritage and cultures. This strategic effort, encouraged by California Humanities, to bring the humanities education into the classroom is essential for student understanding of those around them and giving a voice to all.

 “We are utilizing the data in the SRI report to develop an approach that we can take to help amplify the importance of humanities education, particularly in the middle grades” states Julie Fry, President and CEO of California Humanities. 

Read Julie Fry’s blog post published on the Ed100 blog on September 6: What Good Are the Humanities?

You can read the SRI report here.

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