The Teagle Foundation Partners with the National Endowment for the Humanities
The Teagle Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are partnering to jointly sponsor Cornerstone: Learning for Living, a grant program to reinvigorate the role of the humanities in general education on campuses across the country.
Colleges and universities are seeing declining numbers of students choosing to major in the humanities, declining enrollments by non-majors in many humanities courses, and widespread demoralization of humanities faculty. The Cornerstone: Learning for Living initiative is inspired by the innovative Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts program at Purdue University, which provides a coherent pathway through general education that helps students connect the humanities to their professional aspirations. The Purdue program is helping students in pre-professional majors strengthen critical thinking and communication skills, has reversed the decline in credit hours at Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts, and created new teaching opportunities for humanities faculty.
The Teagle-NEH Cornerstone: Learning for Living initiative aims, through general education, to provide all students with the opportunity to broaden their understanding of the world and themselves, while strengthening the skills to read closely, write clearly, speak with confidence, and to engage with differing viewpoints and perspectives—all capacities cultivated by the humanities that are crucial for participation in our democracy.
The Cornerstone: Learning for Living initiative emphasizes gateway courses aimed at incoming students that are anchored in transformative texts—ancient and modern, Western and non-Western—that have changed the world and continue to have the power to transform individual lives. Such texts—regardless of authorship, culture, or the era that produced them— give students access to a wide range of lived experience. They help students understand how the boundaries of race, gender, and cultural difference can be crossed by exercising the sympathetic imagination. Given the marked shift in undergraduate enrollment toward pre-professional fields of study, the initiative also emphasizes thematically organized clusters of courses that bring humanistic inquiry to problems in business, health, engineering, and other technical fields. The aim is to help students appreciate that technical problems cannot be addressed exclusively through technical solutions.
The program seeks to counter a growing trend at many institutions where general education is structured around distribution requirements and minimizes opportunities for genuine engagement with deep and difficult questions raised by the humanities and for building community through a common intellectual experience. The prevailing structure of general education can have the effect of undermining persistence and retention, particularly for low-income and first-generation students who face pressure to enter the workforce prematurely...