Looking Forward: NJCH and the Future of the Public Humanities

An Interview with Dr. Sharon Ann Holt

Aired: May 27, 2012
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities is taking an opportunity to both look back on four decades of public humanities effort and to look forward to what the future will bring. In this episode of Humanities Connection, Dr. Sharon Ann Holt, Executive Director of NJCH, discusses the important role that the public humanities plays in our daily lives. But first, it’s necessary to begin with definitions—what are the humanities? What differentiates the public humanities? Most critically, why does it matter? The legislation that founded the National Endowment for the Humanities argued that “Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens.” How will we take up this important charge in the next forty years?

 

Defining the humanities is a tricky proposition. It’s easy to fall back on using a list of disciplines—languages; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics, and so on—but that hardly answers the question of why the humanities are important. In this clip, Holt defines the humanities as “what we’re fighting for.” She continues by explaining what makes the public humanities different from traditional academic humanities.

 

 

Over the last four decades, NJCH has impacted the lives of countless numbers of people and strengthened organizations and institutions around the state. In fact, this year alone the Council reached more than 100,000 at the cost of just $9.20 per person! In this clip, Holt discusses some of the Council’s most important longstanding programs, like the Teacher Institute, as well as our plans for the future.

 
As the country prepares for a presidential election, pundits and political organizations are expressing a great deal of concern about encouraging an active, engaged, and informed citizenry. As Holt suggests, the public humanities are more than important in this process, they are essential. NJCH’s goal is, in her words, “empowering, inspiring, and enlarging the lives of the people we touch,” through programs that bring citizens together for deep thinking and conversation.

 

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