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Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 20, Number 4 (Fall 1974)

Najem, Robert E.
The Wisconsin Humanities Committee: what's it all about?,   pp. 25-26

Page 25

The Wisconsin
'hats It Al
By Robert E. Najem
This is the second of a series
of three articles dealing with programs
and opportunities in the humanities
in Wisconsin.
  It's all about a very timely and
much needed program. We've had
Head Start, Title I, poverty pro-
grams, welfare agencies, crime
legislation, and on and on. Many
of these programs with noble ob-
jectives and sometimes poor exe-
cution have left us bewildered,
frustrated, questioning, and per-
haps even cynical.
  So why do we come along with
another Federal project, this time
from the National Endowment for
the Humanities? Simply because
most programs have been work-
ing too much on the problems and
not enough with people. We have
to address ourselves now to the
attitudes, v a 1 u e s, ideals, goals,
and social priorities we involve
Robert E. Najem is director of
the National Humanities Series:
Midwestern Center in Madison
and serves on the Wisconsin
Humanities Committee.
in making decisions. And that is
what the Wisconsin Humanities
Committee is all about. It is an
expression of trust in people, in
discussion, and in the democratic
process. It is not so much an at-
tempt to solve problems per se as
it is an attempt to get everyone
possible p r o b in g contemporary
public policy issues with a human-
istic perspective.
  It's all about the humanities as
they relate to public policy issues.
But what are these humanities of
which we hear so much and really
know so little? Language, litera-
ture, philosophy to be sure. But
we can also add the social sciences
if their central concern is the study
of man. Anthropology and ar-
chaeology are easily a part of the
definition if the focus is on how
humans in the past have devel-
oped their cultures and life styles.
Let's not forget religion and juris-
prudence while we are at it. The
humanities have to do with man
then, with a study of man's char-
acter and spirit, experiences and
environment, ideas and values,
problems and challenges. We are
talking about people as rational,
spiritual, and living beings. We
are talking about the human in
the word humanities.
  It's all about humanists too.
The Wisconsin Humanities Com-
mittee is attempting to help hu-
manists focus their expertise on
public policy issues. Professional
humanists are always engaged in
asking the great philosophical
questions, pondering the meander-
ings of history, or analyzing thp
great works of literature. They
help us understand not only the
past, but also its importance in
the present. We are not talking
just about Durant, Toynbee, or
Trilling, but are including the
many humanists in all our uni-
versities and colleges.
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