It is said what separates us from animals is opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs might separate us, but what elevates us? The humanities and the intellectual force with which they move humanity forward are what really separates us from the beasts.
In describing "the humanities," Indiana Humanities tells us, "Often grouped as the fields of history, literature, poetry, philosophy and ethics, world languages and cultures, religious studies, archaeology, and other related disciplines, 'the humanities' are not a thing, but a process for pursuing truths about the shared human condition. They inspire, engage and enrich us, allowing us to remember our past, envision our future and consider ourselves as individuals and as members of communities" (https://indianahumanities.org/about/faq). Just take a look at Amy Harpe's article in this issue to read about her inspirational experience connecting her passion for primary sources with leading her classroom teachers and students into immersive learning using the standards, resources within her municipality, and issues unique to her community for an immersive understanding of research, preservation, and being an engaged member of society.
The humanities give rise to our creativity, imagination, and are often the origin of innovation, inspiration, and advancements of civilization. When working with families, students, educators, or the community, it is often difficult to communicate something as being an aspect of the humanities primarily due to a lack of experience or awareness. It is a term of historical significance, but not a term frequently used today in everyday conversations. This lack of understanding is not just a regional issue, as I learned recently when attending a meeting with state and national philanthropic, educational, and federal humanities leaders. Regrettably, the importance and value of the humanities is overshadowed by the loss of "humanities" in our common language. The consensus within this group was that the lack of knowledge depreciates mindfulness and causes a lack of engagement among those who would be well served by and appreciative of humanities initiatives, education, and programming. At the heart of a humanities culture is a literate society so dig deep into investing in a school-wide culture of reading with Melissa Thom's article on how to cultivate those customs and traditions.
The humanities are an integral piece of any well-rounded, enriching, and fulfilling education. The school library is a well-informed, critical bridge among students, teachers, curricula, and community resources. We have the vision to see the STEAM connections and the contacts, resources, and wherewithal to aid in developing the cross-curricular bonds that are ever-present but often require a visionary, like the school librarian, who can see the interplay among content areas so as to deepen the humanities experiences for youth. Learn more about leading from the library from Deanna Harris who explains in this issue, "Leaders in any field possess some basic characteristics: integrity, passion, knowledge, vision, confidence, character, courage, and greatness. School librarians who have these qualities also have vibrant and dynamic relationships with school communities and strong, powerful programs. We share our knowledge and are competent, confident educators who are passionate about books and reading, information and inquiry, and the curation and creation of knowledge."
As the school librarian, utilize your strengths and training to take your patrons' humanities experiences to the next level in order to further enhance their lives and education.
Being informed and inspired:
- Visit the National Endowment for the Humanities website: https://www.neh.gov/. Be sure to sign up for the Humanities Magazine newsletter at https://www.neh.gov/humanities.
- Check out the listing of state humanities councils at https://www.neh.gov/about/state-humanities-councils. Locate your state or jurisdiction and use the contact information provided to follow your council on social media. Visit their website for grants and program information or to subscribe to a print or electronic newsletter.