Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category


Lessons for Dr. King’s Day

January 18, 2010

As we observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, agencies and organizations collaborating with the Indiana Humanities Council offer these online teaching and learning resources:

Bill of Rights Institute – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Facing History and Ourselves – Eyes on the Prize Lesson 1, The Philosophy of Nonviolence

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History – Robert Kennedy’s Speech on Martin Luther King’s Death

Indiana Department of Education – The Ideas of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Indianapolis-Marion Co. Public Library – Kids’ Info Guide, Martin Luther King Jr.

National Archives & Records Administration – Official Program for the March on Washington (1963)

National Endowment for the Humanities – Let Freedom Ring: The Life & Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

National Park Service – Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

PBS – Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1985


The humanities: It’s not about what they are; it’s what we do

November 16, 2009

Due to an overwelmingly positive response, we wanted to share the following article with you, which was published in a variety of newspapers throughout Indiana, including the Indianapolis Star on Nov. 4, under the headline “Get in touch with the humanities.”

By Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of the Indiana Humanities Council. 

Once, after a dance performance, Isadora Duncan was asked what the dance meant. Her response has become famous as a terse description of art’s purpose: “If I could tell you what it meant,” she said, “there would be no point in dancing it.”

In my role as president and CEO of the Indiana Humanities Council, I often find myself being asked, “What are the humanities?” And sometimes, like Isadora Duncan, I think it’d be easier to dance than answer the question.

Why? Because sometimes describing the humanities is like describing the wind – it’s easier to say what it does than what it is. It swirls leaves on an autumn sidewalk. It teases a little girl’s hair. It pulses through a wheat field like waves on a landlocked sea.

So, I thought I’d explain what the humanities are by explaining what you can do – and perhaps already do – in, through and with them every day.

I don’t pretend that this list is conclusive; I know it only scratches the surface. But I hope that it will, in its breadth and diversity, allow you to create – and, more important, put into action – your own definition of the humanities. So, let’s get started:

Read a novel. Read a poem. Read the directions on a shampoo bottle. Read the Declaration of Independence. Read a blog. Read an essay. Read a review of a book you’ll never read. Read a sacred text. Read your diary. Read to a kid. Read the liner notes to an old jazz album. Read the lyrics to a song you love. Read a libretto.

See a play with a friend. Go early. Wander through the theater. View the stage from different angles. Peruse the program. Learn about the actors. Watch the play. Study the set. Notice the lighting. Listen to reactions. Find a place to have coffee. Discuss the play. Go to another play. Repeat the process.

Visit a courtroom. Visit a classroom. Visit an old teacher. Visit a park. Visit a museum. Visit a library. Visit City Hall. Visit a college campus. Visit a craftsman’s workbench. Visit an artist’s studio.

Look at a piece of art. Study it. Step back. Look at the piece beside it. Ask yourself: Why are these pieces next to each other? Why is this art? Step back again. Ask yourself: Does the size of the room affect the way I look at the art? Step back again. How does seeing more change the way you see the art?

Listen to a band. Listen to a debate. Listen to a well-tuned machine. Listen to a podcast. Listen to a diner ordering dinner. Listen to a photographer describing a photo. Listen to an architect explaining a building’s design. 

Stop outside a building you pass every day; look at its design. Do you know the name for the architectural style? Do you like it? What appeals to you? What would you do differently? Get a book about architecture and learn about the style. Find other examples of that style and compare them. Find examples of other styles and compare them. Take a walk with a colleague and debate the architecture you see.

Attend a historic-home tour. Attend a lecture. Attend the symphony. Attend a gallery reception. Attend a festival. Attend a legislative session. Attend opening night (of anything). Attend a public forum.

Speak at a public forum. Sing in a choir. Yell “Bravo” at a concert. Ask a question. Tell someone your family’s history. Recite a poem. Describe a work of art. Say what you think.

Now, think about what you’ve done. You’ve examined, studied and reviewed something made by humans or something that makes us human. You’ve thought about it, pondered it and processed it. And you’ve talked about it, debated it and discussed it.

That’s what the humanities are.


What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Leadership and the New Science

September 23, 2009

By  Larry Rowland, Chair of the Indiana Humanities Council’s Board of Directors

It has been said that the only things that will always exist are “death, taxes, and change.”  Our world has seen a tremendous amount of change in the last year; declining stock markets, wars, elections, and the U.S. government taking an active role in bailing out major companies.  It is perhaps the rare and undiscovered individual who predicted all of these changes. The speed of recent change has created a sense of disquiet among many, and who among us would not like to once again see the reasonable predictability of market growth? 

For centuries, we have built our expectations, and our companies, around the precepts of Newtonian physics.  We, and our companies, have worked hard to control our environment, our markets, and our workforce.  Top management’s responsibility in this model has been to set the corporate direction, and demand that the rest of the corporation fall in line in pursuit of the senior leader’s goals. Yet in spite of all of the corporate command and control structures we have built, we have painfully learned that equilibrium does not exist.

Dr. Elizabeth Wheatley, in her book, Leadership and the New Science, suggests that we should be building our companies and our leadership styles using the principles associated with quantum physics.  Quantum physics suggests that there is an interrelatedness of organisms with their environment.  Dr. Wheatley makes the case that leaders should listen to each employee, and develop cooperative teams to focus on the challenges facing their company or organization.  This new focus also encourages the free flow of information throughout the organization rather than using the “top down” strategy used by corporations for decades.  Focusing on the values of the individuals and aligning them with corporate goals, she postulates, can enable an organization to more quickly and flexibly respond to rapid changes occurring in the environment and markets.

Most of us for years have worked for leaders who have taken their leadership cues from Newtonian physics.  What results do you think could be achieved if leaders began listening to their colleagues more, encouraging the free flow of information, and aligning the goals of the individuals with the goals of the company?