Connecting the arts and humanities to a democratic revivial in the United States is more than an intriguing idea - the future of the cultural and political ideals of a diverse nation hangs in the balance. And while that may sound like hyperbole, consider the headwinds of violence, apathy, low-voter turnout, politcal disillusionment and eroding trust in institutions into which American society has turned in recent years. As much as that 'decision' has been driven by choice, short-term corporate self-interest and a certain passive willingness, so to will solutions to re-engage be a matter of choice. And many of the leading voices in American arts and humanities education are making that choice clear: reviving the public square, where the work of democracy takes place, is the focus of Imagining America:
As a growing consortium of over 100 colleges and universities, IA’s central aim is to engage people in the work of democratizing civic culture in the United States and beyond. We place our primary focus on the transformational task of democratizing the culture of higher education institutions through scholars and practitioners who draw on the arts, humanities, and design in their work. As a means to this end, IA’s staff and NAB members have been developing a “Theory of Change” that represents our collective answers to three key questions: (1) What is our assessment of the world as it is? (2) What is our vision of the world as it should be? (3) What strategies can we use to close the gap between what is and what should be?
This is inarguably an effort of which we should be a part. In every crucial sense, the humanities and arts at UGA are fundamental to expanding our students' views of the world and helping them chart a course to engaged citizenship. Across disciplines, our scholars in the classroom take this role quite literally; and when a university education, even at a state flagship as in the case of UGA, equals a rarified, highly-sought experience, our graduates taking responsibility out in the world is a crucial part of the exchange. This elevated sharing of expectations is what the liberal arts learning environment is about - and ours is healthy and robust. What we learn about in literature, history, language, fine arts and all manner of cultural studies is ourselves. We build the world that we will inhabit and bequeath, and this work is never complete.
So UGA would also be an important partner in the concert of IA efforts. It is empowering to think of the future of our country being a product of what is happening right here on our campus, every day.
Because it is.