Today’s Piece at *Times Higher Ed*

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I took a stab at defending the humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities today at Times Higher Education.  Here is the piece:

Donald Trump has issued his first federal budget plan. It eliminates, among other things, the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Practically speaking, the NEH operates on a minuscule budget of $148 million. This represents 0.003 per cent of federal spending in 2016.

Apparently, our president thinks that this money would be better used to pay for a massive border wall or the build-up of what is already the largest and most powerful military in world history. Trump, it seems, wants the government to get out of the business of funding projects that might lead to compassion for those, such as refugees and immigrants, who are in need.

It should alarm us that Trump prefers spending more money on fighter jets than he does on research that might bring peaceful and humane solutions to global problems.

The NEH was created by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act and was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson in 1965. Several things are worth noting about this act.

First, it affirmed that “an advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone” but must also support “great branches of scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future”.

Second, it affirmed that “democracy requires wisdom and vision in its citizens” and must provide citizens with education and access to arts and humanities to “make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants”.

Third, it affirmed that the arts and humanities reflect Americans’ respect for “the nation’s rich cultural heritage” and foster respect for our country’s vast diversity.

Fourth, it affirmed that “the world leadership which has come to the United States cannot rely solely upon superior power, wealth, and technology, but must be solidly founded upon worldwide respect and admiration for the Nation’s high qualities as a leader in the realm of ideas and of the spirit”.

Perhaps Donald Trump has not read the text of this important act. Or perhaps he has read it and simply does not care.

I have seen two basic but ultimately unconvincing arguments for eliminating the NEH.

The first argument suggests that American society does not need the humanities, rejecting the entire philosophy behind the 1965 act that created the NEH.

Trump wants to eliminate an agency that will help our democracy to thrive. The humanities cultivate the pursuit of truth and evidence-based arguments, empathy for the views of others, civic understanding and an awareness that we are members of a human community that is larger than ourselves or our current moment in time.

The second argument against the NEH is made by libertarian-leaning politicians who appreciate what the humanities bring to US society but do not think that the federal government should be in the business of promoting them.

I would be sympathetic to this argument if I believed that private and corporate interests would step up with the money necessary to support the humanities and the cultural institutions that bring them to life for millions of Americans.

Our shared culture and traditions are constantly evolving and changing to meet the needs of the people who invoke them. The preservation and reinterpretation of these traditions, and the democratic virtues that come with such activity, need support. Do we really want to trust the treasured traditions, stories and markers of our collective or group identities to a capitalist market that is driven predominantly by the pursuit of profit at all cost?

The grand stories of our national identity have a good chance of surviving under such privatisation. We will continue to hear, read and learn about Gettysburg, Paul Revere, women’s suffrage and Martin Luther King Jr.

But what will happen to our ability to tell the local and regional stories that have given meaning to life in small places? Who will fund the work of telling stories of everyday world-changers who have been forgotten because they do not conform easily to our national narratives? Can we rely on those in the private sector to care about the experience a child might have at a small museum or historical site – an experience that could change her life and reorient her way of seeing the world?

In Donald Trump’s America, study and reflection on these kinds of things do not matter. We may be on the brink of a cultural holocaust, and we all have a responsibility to prevent it from happening.

It Was Only a Matter of Time Before a Conservative Media Outlet Did A Story Like This

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The Washington Times is running a story titled “Life Without the Arts?: Top 10 Crazy Grants Given by the NEA and NEH.”

Here is a taste journalist Kelly Riddell‘s piece:

Democrats — and the elitist liberal media — have gone apoplectic on President Trump’s proposed funding cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Trump wants to cut the NEA and NEH. This is the worst case scenario for arts groups,” The Washington Post warned.

The Christian Science Monitor wrote: “What America without the NEA and NEH would look like, and why that matters,” forewarning a world without these institutions would mean those in the most rural areas — Mr. Trump’s own voters — would be deprived the cultural enrichment they deserve.

So, I was curious to see what this cultural enrichment looks like. Here’s what I feel are the top 10 contributions to society the NEA and NEH have made. I can’t imagine my taxpayer funds going to anything better.

Riddell then lists NEH-funded projects on “smells” in a medieval history museum and pets in Victorian England.  (I should add that only 2 of her ten examples are NEH-funded projects.  The rest are NEA).

I was waiting for an article like this to appear.  That’s why I wrote this.  And that’s why I have been writing these blog posts.

 

The National Endowment for the Humanities Helped Archaeologist William Kelso and His Team Find Jamestown

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund important programs.

It is probably the greatest archaeological discovery in American history. For over two hundred years historians and archaeologists had assumed that Jamestown, the first successful English colony in America, was decaying somewhere at the bottom of the James River.  Archaeologist William Kelso had other ideas.  In 1994 he took a shovel and started digging.  With the help of over $300,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities he found the fort!

Here is a small taste of the story, courtesy of the NEH website:

…Soon joined by a rotating team of scientists, curators, and volunteers, Kelso began to uncover postholes (pits that once held upright structural timbers), old cellars, and all sorts of cultural detritus: ceramic shards, tobacco pipes, food scraps, and pieces of European armor, some of which had been modified for New World combat. By 1996, the team was confident enough in their finds to announce publicly the rediscovery of James Fort, the first settlement’s first structure, and begin aligning the physical evidence they had gathered with the sparse written records of Smith and others who lived there.

The story that the documentary and archaeological evidence tells is one of hope and industry set against the brutal realities of life in the New World. The colonists built impressive fortifications but struggled for power among themselves (the first grave found at the site contained an Englishman likely killed by a musket ball). They manufactured glass and copper beads for trade with local Powhatan tribes but never managed to establish enduring peace with the native people (Smith himself was abducted but, according to his own account, saved by Pocahontas). For the sake of claiming a share of the New World, they endured disease, the constant threat of violence, and, during the winter of 1609, hunger so dire they resorted to cannibalism.

That last grisly item—recounted in a number of seventeenth-century sources—was confirmed in 2012, when the Jamestown Rediscovery team disinterred the bones of a young English woman. Her skull bore markings consistent with what forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley of the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum describes as “postmortem processing.”

Read more here.  And here is some information about the Jamestown Rediscovery Project.

And a couple of cool videos:

For other posts in this series click here.

Leach: Tyrants Fear the Humanities

Leach.pngJim Leach is a retired Republican congressman from Iowa and former Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Over at The Daily Beast he defends federal funding for the humanities in the wake of Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal that would eliminate the NEH.

Here is a taste:

Even more significant than issues of commerce are the challenges of citizenship and public leadership when for the first time in history weapons of mass destruction have been proliferated and terrorism has been globalized. The health of nations is directly related to the depth of knowledge applied to public decision-making. Thinking from the gut is costly.

For instance, despite having gone to war in the Persian Gulf a decade earlier, Congress and executive branch policy-makers understood little of the Sunni/Shi’a divide when 9/11 hit. Similarly, despite the French experience in Algeria and the British and Russian in Afghanistan, we had little comprehension of the depth of Islamic antipathy to foreign intervention. Nor, despite the tactics of a Daniel Boone-style patriot named Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” who attacked British garrisons at night during the Revolutionary War and then vanished in South Carolina swamps during the day, we had little comprehension of the effectiveness of asymmetric warfare.

Every American senses that something is askew in our political system. Our judgment is under attack from traditional allies as well as international rivals. Instead of standing forthrightly up for old-fashioned American values—a Lockean respect for individual rights and a Burkean reverence for established social structures—we seem to be lashing out, accentuating domestic ruptures and escalating rather than alleviating international tensions. As a result an increasing number of people on the planet seem to think that America has lost its historical grip. We seem not only to be unschooled in foreign cultures but prone to misunderstand our own heritage.

The conclusion is self-evident. Just as we need to rebuild an infrastructure of roads and bridges, we need to strengthen our infrastructure of ideas.

Tyrants have good reason to fear the humanities. We do not. The humanities are America’s stock and trade. They are a national asset that we shortchange at our peril.

Read the entire piece here.

National Endowment for the Humanities Funds the Warrior-Scholar Project

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Warrior-Scholars discussing Tocqueville

Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

According to its website, The Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) “empowers enlisted military veterans by providing them with a skill bridge that enables a successful transition from the battlefield to the classroom; maximizes their education opportunities by making them informed consumers of education, and increases the confidence they will need to successfully complete a rigorous four-year undergraduate program at a top-tier school.”

WSP offers immersive one and two week academic workshops or “bootcamps” free of charge to enlisted veterans at Amherst, Cornell, Georgetown, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Chapel Hill, Arizona, Chicago, Michigan, Princeton, Oklahoma, Southern California, and Yale.

It has several goals:

  • To facilitate the often difficult transition enlisted veterans face when moving from a military culture to the academic culture inherent on college campuses.
  • To demonstrate and explain the foundational skills and methods, or “tricks of the trade” that highly successful college students use.
  • To increase veteran graduation rates.
  • To prepare student-veterans to be leaders in the classroom.

Learn more about this amazing NEH-funded program here.

For other posts in this series click here.

Good to See Some GOP Lawmakers Defending the National Endowment for the Humanities

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“Chronicling America” is an NEH-sponsored program that digitizes U.S. newspapers

Michael Cooper and Sopan Deb’s piece at The New York Times calls attention to several GOP members of Congress who are willing to fight for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts after learning that government funding for both of these organizations were eliminated in Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal.

Here is a taste:

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who is the chairwoman of a crucial Senate appropriations panel that oversees the endowments, said in a statement, “I believe we can find a way to commit to fiscal responsibility while continuing to support the important benefits that N.E.A. and N.E.H. provide.”

Her backing, like that of some other Republicans, comes after years of federal funds have flowed to artists in her state. Since 1995, the endowment has sent more than $18 million in grants to Alaska — a state which, partly because of its small population, ranks near the top when it comes to arts grants per capita.

Two other Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, signed their names last month to a letter urging continued support for the endowments, which together get $300 million a year. A spokeswoman for Senator Capito, who is on the appropriations committee, said Friday that she would “advocate for her priorities, including funding for the arts and humanities, which are important to our economy and communities.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funded the Messiah College Center for Public Humanities

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund important programs.

Yesterday I used this blog and my twitter feed to highlight a few programs that the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has funded in the last year or two. During the course of the day I had several people ask me if I have ever received funding from the NEH.  No, I have not.  Believe me, I have tried many times to secure funding for my work from the NEH, but, for whatever reason, I have not been successful.

Having said that, I have been indirectly involved with an NEH-funded project at Messiah College.  About ten years ago, Messiah College received an NEH “We the People” grant to fund the Center for Public of Humanities.

The Center operates with the following vision:

The humanities by nature engage fundamental questions of human life and explore the cultural expressions humans have produced in response to their reflections. Whether the concern is the individual search for meaning or the nurturing of civic awareness in service to society as a whole, the humanities provide a rich venue for shared inquiry into the pressing human dimensions of the challenges we all face in living. But such engaging humanities explorations should not only be the private preserve of the undergraduate classroom, since the diverse communities of our society are in serious need of the opportunity to join carefully considered conversations on issues of contemporary significance through respectful discussion and debate in order to learn from one another.

The humanities have the capacity to transform individual lives through the discovery of meaning, and to transform society through the discovery of shared civic ideals. The Center for Public Humanities’ role, therefore, is to kindle the conversation and invite more people to it. In this spirit the Center seeks to bring together collegiate faculty and students together with secondary school teachers, cultural and civic leaders, and potential learners whose resources and life situation have discouraged them from considering a college education. Such a public humanities outreach program has the power to transform individual lives and communities, and is very much in keeping with the College’s mission of preparing all for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation.

To realize its goals, the Center sponsors innovative forms of public humanities outreach through a variety of collaborative programs. Working groups of faculty and student fellows, as well as individual faculty members and students, have opportunities to offer their expertise to the wider community through service, teaching, and public speaking. In addition to off-campus outreach and collaboration with other humanities-based organizations (schools, libraries, museums, regional societies, state councils, colleges and universities), the Center sponsors a variety of public events on campus as a service to the wider community. In fact, the  Center for Public Humanities is an enabling agent to bring together various groups interested in humanities-based education, cultural events, and civic issues of contemporary significance.

Learn more about the Center and its programs here.

For other posts in this series click here.

National Endowment for Humanities Funds Courses on “Enduring Questions”

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

In 2016, the National Endowment for the Humanities funded courses at colleges and universities across the country focused on these “enduring questions.”

What does it mean to be happy?

When should war end?

How do we grieve and mourn?

What is the purpose of art?

What is freedom?

Who is our neighbor?

What is community?

How do we think about morality as it relates to our habits and our health?

What is comedy?

What is discovery?

How should we think morally about the marketplace?

What is the relationship between the mind and the body?

How might we think theologically about race?

Is time valuable?

Why does our society incarcerate people?

What is creativity?

Learn more about the NEH’s work on “enduring questions” here.

For other posts in this series click here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funded a Summer Seminar for Teachers on the History of the Hoover Dam

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

Last summer 6-12 grade teachers gathered in Boulder City, Nevada for a week-long National Endowment for the Humanities seminar titled “Hoover Dam and the Shaping of the American West.”

Here is what they experienced:

At Hoover Dam and the Shaping of the American West we will explore the societal consequences (positive and negative) of Hoover Dam’s construction. Throughout the program, leading scholars will guide us in a variety of sessions that center on three central questions: 1) What was the role of Hoover Dam in the development of the American southwest? 2) How does Hoover Dam’s construction reflect broader issues of early 20th century American society? 3) What will the legacy of Hoover Dam be for future generations?

We will examine archival materials such as letters, photographs, and oral histories. We will get the opportunity to explore the damsite itself, as well as Boulder City, Lake Mead, the Boulder City Museum, the Nevada State Museum, and the special collections archives at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. We will learn about the challenges and triumphs of the construction process, as well as the physical workings of the dam and its distinctive architectural design. We will engage such topics as politics, economics, labor history, civil rights, westward migration, and the environmental legacy of US water policy, all through the lens of Hoover Dam. These topics will serve to show that the story of Hoover Dam can be instructional of a variety of humanities-oriented themes that reach well beyond its celebrated feats of engineering.

Learn more here.  This is just one of many programs that the National Endowment for the Humanities provides for school teachers.  Let’s keep the funding coming.  Call your representative in Washington today.

For other posts in this series click here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds the Papers of Abraham Lincoln

72118-last_lincolnDonald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency publishes the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.  This is a “long-term project dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his entire lifetime (1809-1865).”

In 2015 the National Endowment for the Humanities provided funding for the preparation for online publication of materials from the pre-congressional career of Lincoln .  Here is a short press release:

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project has received a $400,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that will allow more documents about Lincoln’s congressional career to be placed online.

The new three-year grant is the largest the Papers of Abraham Lincoln has received from the NEH. It comes in the form of $100,000 in outright funds and $300,000 in matching funds.

“NEH is proud to support programs that illuminate the great ideas and events of our past, broaden access to our nation’s many cultural resources, and open up for us new ways of understanding the world in which we live,” said William Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The grant covers the period from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2019. It will support the salaries of editors who are working through the documentation of Abraham Lincoln’s early life and career. These staff members, along with other editors, will focus on the markup, annotation and review of Lincoln’s legislation, correspondence and speeches during his single term in Congress (1847-1849). 

Because most of this offer comes in the form of a matching grant, the Papers of Abraham Lincoln must raise at least $100,000 a year from private sources to match the amount offered by the NEH. Thus, the NEH award effectively doubles each private donation from friends and supporters of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. 

“This grant represents an affirmation of the importance of our project,” said Director and Editor Daniel W. Stowell. “NEH support validates the progress we have made thus far and encourages private support of the exciting work remaining before us.”

Read more about this grant here.

For other posts in this series click here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

mapDonald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

If you teach or write about slavery you need to be aware of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.  The database has information about nearly 36,000 slave voyages to the Americas.

Here is a description:

From the late 1960s, Herbert S. Klein and other scholars began to collect archival data on slave-trading voyages from unpublished sources and to code them into a machine-readable format. In the 1970s and 1980s, scholars created a number of slave ship datasets, several of which the current authors chose to recode from the primary sources rather than integrate the datasets of those scholars into the present set. By the late 1980s, there were records of approximately 11,000 individual trans-Atlantic voyages in sixteen separate datasets, not all of which were trans-Atlantic, nor, as it turned out, slave voyages. And of course, some sets overlapped others. Several listings of voyages extracted from more than one source had appeared in hard copy form, notably three volumes of voyages from French ports published by Jean Mettas and Serge and Michelle Daget and two volumes of Bristol voyages (expanded to four by 1996) authored by David Richardson. The basis for each dataset was usually the records of a specific European nation or the particular port where slaving voyages originated, with the information available reflecting the nature of the records that had survived rather than the structure of the voyage itself. Scholars of the slave trade spent the first quarter century of the computer era working largely in isolation, each using one source only as well as a separate format, though the Curtin, Mettas, and Richardson collections were early exceptions to this pattern.

The idea of creating a single multisource dataset of trans-Atlantic slave voyages emerged from a chance meeting of David Eltis and Stephen Behrendt in the British Public Record Office in 1990 while they were working independently on the early and late British slave trades. At about the same time, David Richardson was taking over detailed multisource work on the large mid-eighteenth-century Liverpool shipping business begun years earlier by Maurice Schofield. All this work, together with the Bristol volumes that Richardson had already published, made it seem feasible to integrate the records for the very large British slave trade for the first time, and beyond that, given the available Dutch, French, and Portuguese data, to collect a single dataset for the trade as a whole. Meetings in January, 1991 at the American Historical Association and, in 1992, at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University, headed by Professor Henry L. Gates, Jr resulted in grant proposals to major funding agencies. In July 1993 the project received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities with supplementary support coming from the Mellon Foundation.

Read more about this website here.

In 2016 the National Endowment for the Humanities provided funding to improve the database and add new records.

For other posts in this series click here.

 

National Endowment for the Humanities Funds the Online Works of Jonathan Edwards

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University is at work in putting the papers of this 18th-century evangelical minister and theologian online.  Here is a taste of what Edwards Center is all about:

The mission of the Jonathan Edwards Center is to support inquiry into the life, writings, and legacy of Jonathan Edwards by providing resources that encourage critical appraisal of the historical importance and contemporary relevance of America’s premier theologian.

The primary way that we do this is with the Works of Jonathan Edwards Online, a digital learning environment for research, education and publication, that presents all of Edwards’s writings, along with helpful editorial materials that allow the reader to examine Edwards’ thought in incredibly powerful, useful ways.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), pastor, revivalist, Christian philosopher, missionary, and college president, is widely regarded as North America’s greatest theologian. He is the subject of intense scholarly interest because of his significance as an historical figure and the profound legacy he left on America’s religious and intellectual landscapes. His writings are being consulted at a burgeoning rate by religious leaders, pastors, and churches worldwide because of the fervency of Edwards’s message and the acumen with which he appraised religious experience. Yet for centuries, scholars and readers of Edwards have had to rely on inaccurate and partial versions of his writings. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, the critical edition of Edwards’s writings, was created at Yale University in 1953 to overcome these obstacles.

But even with the Edwards Works amounting to a 26-volume letterpress series, less than half of Edwards’s total writings was available. To provide the entirety of Edwards’s corpus on a global basis, we have created the Works of Jonathan Edwards Online (WJE Online), a digital environment that supports and assists the research, reading, and teaching of Edwards’s writings, primarily through a comprehensive, searchable online database that contains the series published by Yale University Press but also tens of thousands of pages of unpublished computerized transcripts–sermons, notebooks, essays, letters, and personalia–that the Jonathan Edwards Center has on file. Complementing these primary texts are reference works, secondary works, chronologies, and audio, video, and visual sources. Simply put, no comparable digital resource for an American religious figure exists.

In 2016 the National Endowment for the Humanities provided funding for the continued digitization of Edwards’s works.

To learn more about the Edwards Center click here.

For other posts in this series click here.

The National Endowment for Humanities Funds the Papers of Martin Luther King

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University runs the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project.  Here is a taste of what this project is all about:

The King Papers Project’s principal mission is to publish a definitive fourteen-volume edition of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.,a comprehensive collection of King’s most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts. The seven already published volumes have become essential reference works for researchers and have influenced scholarship about King and the movements he inspired. Building upon this research foundation, the Project also engages in other related educational activities. Using internet communications technology to reach a diverse global audience, it has greatly increased popular as well as scholarly awareness of King’s achievements and visionary ideas.

In 2016 the National Endowment for the Humanities provided funding for the preparation for publication of volumes VIII and IX of the King Papers, covering the years 1962 -1964.

For other posts in this series click here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds a Seminar for Teachers on the Transcontinental Railroad

Transcon

Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

This summer K-12 teachers from around the country will convene in Sacramento to study the history of the Transcontinental Railroad.  The seminar is titled: “The Transcontinental Railroad: Transforming California and the Nation.”

Here is what those teachers can expect:

Using the railroad as a common point of reference, this workshop will expand your understanding of Gilded Age history and culture. We will explore how the Transcontinental Railroad inaugurated a national transportation and communications network, a truly national marketplace for the passage of goods, a much larger-scaled industrial capitalism than ever before, and a larger-scaled labor movement to oppose it. Lives were transformed and in some cases destroyed by the railroad: immigrant railroad workers and settlers of the West, Plains Indians, bison, and captains of industry. The rail line made possible the mass settlement of the West, and, as those who conceived it may have predicted, it changed the course of American history. We will come to see the railroad as the connection between economic, social, environmental, and cultural systems, and as a useful device for teaching the era.

Each session of this NEH Landmarks workshop will begin on a Sunday evening with a reception and tour of the Sacramento History Museum and conclude Friday afternoon after a week of stimulating workshops, talks, and field work. Over the course of the six days, academic historians, museum professionals, and educational leaders associated with The History Project will lead NEH Summer Scholars on an investigation of the transcontinental railroad from its conceptual origins, through feats of labor and engineering, and on to its social, political, and economic impact during and after the Gilded Age. Historic Old Sacramento, a unique 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park located along the scenic Sacramento River, provides an incomparable backdrop for our workshop. The California State Railroad Museum will host much of our work. Other sessions will be held at the Crocker Art Museum and the Leland Stanford Mansion. We will also take two day trips: the first following the tracks of the first transcontinental railroad into the Sierra; the second to the San Francisco Bay Area with visits to Stanford University and San Francisco Maritime National Park.

Although we’ll use an online learning platform to collect, share, and discuss resources, no previous experience with educational technology is required. Consider this an opportunity to experiment online in a supportive environment. Together, we’ll assemble a collection of images, text, video, and your own writings. This archive will become an increasingly valuable as you work to transform the workshop experience into curricular activities using materials and concepts from the workshop. You’ll leave Sacramento with these plans well underway and then polish them in the month that follows.

Learn more about this NEH-funded project here.

For other posts in this series click here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funded a Seminar for K-12 Teachers on the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

In 2016 K-12 teachers from all over the country came to Birmingham for a week-long intensive course on the Civil Rights Movement.  The seminar was titled “Stony the Road We Trod: Alabama’s Role in the Modern Civil Rights Movement.”

Here is a taste of what the teachers experienced:

The “Stony . . .” Workshop offers a unique opportunity for educators to participate in an in-depth, one-week, interactive field study of the Modern Civil Rights Movement and the pivotal role that Alabama played in making the promises of the U.S Constitution a greater reality for more Americans.  Teachers will trace the role of protest in American history as a tool used to obtain civil liberties and civil rights by examining Alabama’s pivotal role in the Modern Civil Rights Movement. Birmingham will serve as the host city for this series of Workshops which include travel to Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee – all key “battleground” sites in the struggle for civil rights…

As the nation remembers the events that took place in Alabama during the 1960s, it is most fitting that school teachers come here to study the events of the Modern Civil Rights Movement and examine how events here changed the world. Landmarks of industry, faith, social and cultural clashes dot the landscape.  To fully understand the background and accomplishments of the civil rights movement one must examine the economic, social, political, cultural, and judicial institutions that crafted Jim Crow and set the nation on a course with destiny that erupted on a bus in Montgomery, climaxed in the streets of Birmingham, and set a course for the Alabama State Capitol via a bridge in Selma.

Participants will better understand the who, what, how, where, and why of the important events in Alabama that forced African American leaders to take their struggle for freedom and equality out of the church and social settings where they talked, planned, and strategized about how to “fix the broken systems” and into the streets so that the entire world could see what it meant to live life as a “second class citizen” in the land of justice, freedom, equality, and opportunity.

Learn more here.

Here is a video summarizing the program:

For other posts in this series click here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds “Spirited: Prohibition in America”

Prohibition-Detroit-1919-1

Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

The NEH on the Road program shares American historians through traveling exhibits.  One of these exhibits is Spirited: A History of Prohibition.

Here is a summary:

Spirited: Prohibition in America brings visitors back to this period of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and real-life legends, such as Al Capone and Carry Nation.

Adapted from the National Constitution Center’s flagship exhibition, Spirited explores the history of Prohibition, from the dawn of the temperance movement to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment in 1933. What made the country go “dry” and how did America change during this period in history? Visitors to Spirited will learn about the amendment process, the role of liquor in American culture, the cultural revolution of the roaring ’20s, and how liquor laws vary from state to state today.

The morality and illegalization of liquor split American opinion and created a subculture of rampant criminality. Organized crime grew from localized enterprises to a national network for manufacturing, distribution, and sales of alcohol. The issue catalyzed a number of federal regulations and the passing of the Volstead Act, but little resources were provided for enforcement. Spirited draws on histories told from both sides of the law. Through strong visual and interactive elements, the exhibition demonstrates how America went from a nation drowning in liquor in the 1800s, to campaigns of temperance, and the upswing and downfall of outlawing prohibition.

The exhibition surveys the inventive and ingenious ways lawmakers and the American public responded to Prohibition. Legal provisions for sacramental wine, medicinal alcohol, and the preservation of fruit and the efforts of breweries to stay in business led to popularization of products such as “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine,” “near beer,” and Coca-Cola. Visitors will learn how transportation networks and clever disguises were used to run liquor from state to state, how speakeasies gave way to the popularization of jazz, and the Charleston dance craze.

Spirited features semi-immersive environments that encompass the sights, sounds, and experiences of this fascinating period in American history. Hosting venues will receive educational and public programming materials that outline ideas for interactive workshops on “speakeasy slang,” ’20s-themed socials, speaker suggestions for topics, such as the women’s suffrage movement, and lesson plans on today’s battle with drugs and alcohol.

Learn more here.

Here is a short video about Spirited at the Tampa Bay History Center:

For other posts in this series click here.

 

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds the Japanese American History Digitization Project

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

The Japanese American History Digitization Project at California State University will help us better understand the story of Japanese Americans in the 20th century by digitizing the archives of several collections and placing them on line for researchers.

Here is a description:

The story of the Japanese Americans in the 20th century – their migration to this country, the Alien Land laws under which they lived, their incarceration during World War II, the redress movement – is a complex local and state topic as well as a national subject of great historical impact. The accumulation of archival materials telling these “local” stories has enormous potential for scholarly interpretation and forms a humanities topic of national importance. The California State University System (consisting of 23 campuses, once called “the 1000 mile campus”) and the local CSU archival collections scattered throughout California are too disparate to offer scholars a complete story or easy access. It is not serendipity that so many CSU archives have a great deal of material focused on this issue. Immigration patterns that determined where Japanese Americans (Nikkei) settled also relate to where CSU collections are located. Sacramento, San Jose and Fresno had early Japanese American agricultural populations. The Nikkei populations of Little Tokyo, Gardena and Palos Verdes in Los Angeles County are directly connected to the extent of materials that CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU Fullerton have collected. Grants to digitize and describe these archival collections are beginning to bring these local stories of national significance together for worldwide access.

Learn more here.

 

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds “Dialogues on the Experience of War”

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Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

This month  Auburn University is ending six-month program called “Dialogues on the Experience of War.”  Veterans and community members have been invited to participate in conversations on World War I and the Vietnam War in six different Alabama communities.

Here is a taste of the program:

The Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities is proud to announce the launch of “Dialogues on the Experience of War,” a reading-discussion program on World War One and the Vietnam War, in six communities throughout the state. The Center was one of 17 recipients of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for programs that bring perspective and context to the experience of war through the study of literature.

The six Alabama communities participating are Auburn, Collinsville, Ozark, Phenix City, Valley, and Wetumpka. The program will begin September 2016 and end March 2017. Veterans and community members are invited to sign-up for the free program by finding their community representative at aub.ie/dialogues. Recent veterans of the global war on terror are particularly encouraged to participate.

The program provides an opportunity to discuss the experience of war in World War One and the Vietnam War from the perspective of memoir writers and fictional characters in stories and film. World One War resources include the memoir of Congressional Medal of Honor winner John Lewis Barkley, a short story anthology, and the popular 1925 silent film The Big Parade. Vietnam War resources include Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, journalistic account Dispatches, and the Academy Award-winning film Platoon.

Dialogues on the Experience of War is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the Standing Together initiative, which emphasizes the innovative ways in which the humanities can engage military veterans and communities. “Because veterans account for only 7 percent of our country’s population, there is a pressing need for community programs that bring veterans and nonveterans together in conversation,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “NEH’s Dialogues on the Experience of War grants will allow veterans and community members to explore together the experiences of war using humanities texts as the means of deeper understanding.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at http://www.neh.gov.

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The National Endowment for the Humanities Does Not Just Promote Obscure Scholarship

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LaSalle U historian George Boudreau runs a NEH-funded summer seminar for teachers on Ben Franklin.  Here’s George with teachers in the Powel House in Philadelphia 

Critics of government funding for the humanities like to point to the specialized scholarly research funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  The argument goes something like this: “We don’t want our tax dollars going to fund a study of the Oxford comma in late 19th-century Victorian literature.”

I am sure that a scholar working on the Oxford comma could convince other scholars (who sit on the NEH funding committees) that his or her research is very important to society. But such a project will be a hard sell for ordinary Americans concerned about how their tax money is being spent.  (Please don’t misunderstand me here.  I am not arguing that this kind of scholarship is not valuable.  I am just trying to understand how this project might look to someone like my high-school educated father).

But criticizing the public funding of the humanities and the mission of the NEH based on its work with academic scholars fails to acknowledge the fact that most NEH money goes to programs that, whether we realize it or not, often have a direct or indirect influence on our lives.

I tweeted (@johnfea1) about some of this tonight in the wake of the news that President Donald Trump wants to eliminate the NEH.  Here are some of those tweets:

It’s time to call your representative in Congress.

Another Reason Why Eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities Might Be a Bad Idea

In case you have not heard, Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal, released today, eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.  This morning I wrote an extended piece on this development. We are currently shopping it around.

I have also been tweeting (follow along @johnfea1) older pieces from The Way of Improvement Leads Home in which I or others have defended the humanities.

In the meantime, here is another reason why the NEH might be useful.  Read this recent tweet from our Vice President:

I can’t imagine that mid-19th century Irish immigrants felt this deep sense of kinship.

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