By Duane Paul Murphy
Catholic University of America President John Garvey held a public conversation on Tuesday with National Endowment For The Humanities (NEH) Chairman Jon Parrish Peede to discuss religion and higher education in Pryz Great Room B.
More than 30 people were in attendance, including university students, faculty, and staff as well as representatives from the NEH. Nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate last year in 2018, Peede previously worked for the independent federal agency between 2003 and 2011 during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Throughout the discussion, Peede reflected on the history of religious and spiritual faith as well as its relations with institutions of higher education. Peede emphasized that religious studies alongside liberal arts, social sciences, and the humanities were foundational in broadening student’s worldviews on life and themselves. Peede, a Mississippi native, also found it “crushing” that religious individuals and organizations used religious and or spiritual text as well as beliefs to justify oppression of minority groups such as African Americans through slavery and Jim Crow styled discrimination.
When the issues of rising secularism in the United States as well as the rest of the world were brought up, Garvey indicated that secular religion will not entirely hinder enrollment or university experiences in religious higher education since Christianity, including Catholicism, is expanding in the developing world such as Asia, Pacific Oceania, Africa, and the America. Furthermore, Garvey said that there could be a “Third Revival” of religion in America with the rise of religious and spiritual faith amongst non-white persons of color.
During the questions and answers portion of the public discussion, a wide variety of issues were brought up by the audience members. When the issue of how advanced automation will disrupt the economy and education, Peede said that students majoring and studying liberal arts, sciences, and the humanities need to learn adaptability as major companies are hiring more humanities professionals in their technological development departments or projects. Created by in 1965 under the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities passed by the Congress and signed into law by U.S. President Lyndon Banes Johnson, the agency primarily focuses on supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities, mostly in higher education and art projects nationwide. The NEH is famously known for supporting the Emmy Award winning documentary series Civil War by Ken Burns, released in 1990.