Follow Up to Open Letter to Heritage University

I’ve been amazed and humbled by the unexpected response to my open letter to the President of Heritage University.

Since posting it 48 hours ago, it’s been seen over 2,000 times and shared directly to Facebook and Twitter over 400 times. This doesn’t take into account the times someone forwards the link from email or social media. The letter has been all over the U.S., England, and Australia.

I’ve been privileged to make new connections as people who want to extend the conversation about the humanities reach out via email and social media. I’ve met smart, courageous students who are passionate about social justice. I’ve connected with high school math teachers who want more of the humanities in the curriculum. High school principals have invited me to their schools to talk. Professors of biology, chemistry, and business have literally moved me to tears with their heartfelt support for my (not new or revolutionary!) vision of a liberal education. Professors and chairs from colleges and universities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois have circulated my letter on their campuses. Two English professors have asked permission to make the letter assigned reading in their classes. My own students are reading and sharing and talking (I’m so proud of them!).

What truly amazes me is that the bulk of these new contacts come from disciplines outside the humanities, and most often within STEM fields. I knew I’d a get hearty “hear, hear” from fellow liberal arts teachers. I never expected the most impassioned support to come from the sciences. And I had no idea this letter – simply something I felt needed to be said on my campus, and said in a way that could be digested slowly – would strike such a nerve.

Clearly, we are ready for a full discussion of the strange disconnect, the false dichotomy, we’ve created between science and the humanities. Clearly, scientists, mathematicians, business leaders, and social scientists are seeing the need for students who can contextualize beyond their own discipline, who can think creatively, critically, and in complex, multivalent ways. We are ready to move into a new phase of American education that drops boundaries of all kinds.

Please, continue to reach out to me. I love hearing from you, whoever you are and wherever you are. Let’s talk about how we can bring the liberal arts back not only as respected disciplines in their own right, but as companions and support for other disciplines.

Maybe I’m being too hopeful. Maybe I’m being naïve. But I feel we’re on the cusp of a cultural shift in the way we approach education. Last night a Social Work professor in my state emailed to ask how he could be part of this “movement.” That word – “movement” – is a powerful one. At first I stumbled over it. Is what I’m thinking, what I’m talking about, a “movement”?

I say we claim it. And move it forward.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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