News | 19 January 2015

Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens


By Bill Ladusaw, Dean of the Humanities Division.

September 1965 was a good month for birthdays. As UC Santa Cruz opened its doors with high aspirations, on the other side of the country Congress gave birth to twins that reinforced those ideals: the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts.

In the founding legislation, Congress declared that an advanced civilization must give full value and support to all branches of scholarly and cultural activity “in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future. Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster and support a form of education, and access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.” (P.L. 89-209, as amended)

Current events, from Ferguson to Paris, challenge us to reach for wisdom and vision: to move beyond reaction to thoughtful reflection, to wrestle information overload into informed understanding, and to reach for both sympathy for multiple perspectives and reasoned, critical response.

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