You’re likely familiar with arguments about whether advocates for the humanities should invoke their vocational utility when making the case for the value of studying the humanities. Many point to the need to counter misleading tropes about the practicality of a humanities education in order to address prospective students’ and their families’ concerns. Others, such as Stanley Fish, contend that any such justification “involves a surrender to some measure or criterion external to the humanities.” But faculty who take it upon themselves to help students discern compelling applications of the skills they’ve gained through the humanities discover that such efforts actually enhance humanities education in its own right.
Update, September 26, 2019: Earlier today, the full Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies spending bill, which included a $2 million increase for the NEH over FY 2019. Also included in the bill were increases for the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Fund.
The Senate has been moving through the appropriations process at a far slower pace than the House. While the House passed 10 of its 12 appropriations bills before the August recess, the Senate has just begun releasing and considering bills over the past week. It is only in the past two days that we have begun to see the funding bills that include appropriations for humanities programs.
The National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) supports summer programs across the country for K-12 educators, covering history, literature, religion, politics, art, and culture through various themes connected to local histories and cultures. This summer, we partnered with 14 programs to document their impact on educators and, in turn, our nation’s schoolchildren. Data collection will continue until summer 2020 in order to understand how educators are implementing what they learned. However, this year’s pre- and post-program surveys demonstrate these programs provide teachers with a renewed excitement for content, classroom materials that promote connections with students of diverse backgrounds, and a sense of community with educators across the country.
On August 20, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded $29 million to 215 projects located throughout the U.S. These include grants for collaborative research, public scholar fellowships, and scholarly editions and translations; funding for media projects, exhibitions, humanities discussions, and historic site interpretations; grants for the national digital newspaper program and collection preservation; professional development programs for K-12 and college educators; and digital humanities projects and institutes.
Before Congress adjourned for its August recess, both the House and Senate passed a budget deal that raises caps on discretionary spending for FY 2020 and FY 2021, paving the way for increased appropriations for humanities funding. The House has already passed ten of its twelve appropriations bills which included increased funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Education’s international education programs, along with other humanities programs. Our funding chart tracks these proposed numbers.
Through our Humanities for All initiative, we have been working to support publicly engaged scholarship, cognizant of all the ways their work enriches academic and community life. While publicly engaged scholarship has proliferated, there remains concern among scholars about how this work is credited to them in the context of the three traditional expectations for faculty promotion and tenure in the humanities: research, teaching, and service. With this in mind, we want to support scholars in publishing on their work and have been working to showcase how publicly engaged work and scholarship can go hand in hand. To that end, we are delighted to partner with Routledge, Taylor & Francis to release Publishing and the Publicly Engaged Humanities: a free-access collection of recent articles featuring publicly engaged humanities work.
As the data documenting the widespread decline in humanities majors and enrollments sinks in, we are reaching out to the higher ed community to learn more about challenges to recruiting students to the humanities and strategies for overcoming them. Working to attract more students to the humanities on your campus? Have ideas about how to navigate the challenges involved? Please take our survey and share your perspective!
On July 23, we partnered with Hagley Museum and Library to present an exhibition-style briefing on Capitol Hill. Congressional staff members, humanities advocates, and other local friends had the opportunity to view items from Hagley’s remarkable collections and gain new insights into the impact of NEH funding in preserving our nation’s heritage.
This summer we’ve been reaching out to scholarly societies to learn about how they are communicating all their disciplines have to offer to prospective students. This is part of our Study the Humanities initiative, through which we are collecting and sharing strategies to help faculty, administrators, and scholarly societies make the case for studying the humanities as an undergrad. We’ve noticed that several scholarly societies have had great success with academic competitions that introduce students to their disciplines long before they arrive on campus.