Describing his exposure to a liberal arts curriculum during his college years as “transformative,” Chancellor Cigarroa addressed colleagues in the American Academy Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences during a Jan. 12 conference in Chicago. Read excerpts from his speech:
I was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and educated in public schools. When I was growing up, Laredo was ranked as the poorest city in the nation. In my wildest dreams as a child, I never imagined I would attend an Ivy League university or serve on prominent national commissions.
Needless to say, going from Laredo public schools to Yale was the hardest challenge of my life. Despite my success at science and math, I was under-prepared for the Yale liberal arts curriculum, especially those courses involving written communication.
My exposure to the Yale curriculum was transformative. As filmmaker and fellow Commissioner George Lucas has observed, “The sciences teach us how. The humanities teach us why.” The liberal arts and humanities teach us critical thinking and problem-solving. They introduce us to histories, languages, and cultures. They show us how we might reason together and reach common ground. And they prepare us for a lifetime of learning.
As our report observes, the strengthening of the humanities and social sciences should begin in high school. It is crucial that high school students experience excellent courses in literature, history, social studies, civics, and composition classes that teach them to read and write intelligently – to articulate – and to develop the skills to think logically and construct a persuasive argument. And as a practical matter, students will not advance to the next level unless they reinforce their GPAs with strong grades in the liberal arts and social studies.
The Chancellor concluded with the following remarks:
To put it simply, our greatest hope is that if we strengthen the humanities and social sciences, we will better educate a new generation of thinkers and innovators, advance civilization, move us closer to world peace, and provide a more fulfilling life for our children and grandchildren. Who today can afford to ignore this vision of a better tomorrow?
These are some of the many reasons why a surgeon and man of science, like myself, deeply values the humanities and social sciences – and why I am proud of the work we have accomplished on this Commission.