Publication Date

April 2, 2014

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

Few readers of this blog need to be convinced of the value of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The NEH is the leading federal agency with the mission to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge in the humanities—knowledge that is essential to healthy public culture in a democratic society. Each year, the NEH awards hundreds of competitive, peer-reviewed grants to a broad range of nonprofit educational organizations and institutions, and to individual scholars, throughout the country. Grantees include two- and four-year colleges, universities, research institutes, museums, historical societies, libraries, archives, scholarly associations, K-12 schools, television/film/radio producers, and more. These grants help support educational advancement, professional development, and institutional activities for thousands of students, teachers, faculty, and others engaged in the humanities in communities across the US every year.

All this for not a lot of money. The NEH allocation constitutes such an infinitesimal proportion of the federal budget that the average hand calculator won’t even delve into the arithmetic (yes, $146,000,000 out of roughly $3,500,000,000,000). Or, as one friend back in the Midwest used to put it, “budget dust.” One would think that Congress has better things to do with its time than worry about such pennies.

Apparently, however, many of our lawmakers disagree. The House of Representatives, taking its cue from Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), has placed on the table a budget that doesn’t bother cutting the NEH budget, but rather simply eliminates it. Given the politics of budget negotiation currently active on Capitol Hill, most pundits give the Ryan proposal no chance of passing the Senate. Nevertheless, one never knows what will happen to small items when the sausage of compromise starts getting chopped.  Given the extreme nature of the Ryan proposal, it is important for advocates of public funding for the humanities to weigh in now. Those of us who consider the NEH important to public culture in the United States need to make our opinion known to our Senators.

I have included below a message from the National Humanities Alliance, which is among the AHA’s most important partners for collaboration with other disciplines for the promotion of historical teaching and scholarship. Please read the message, and contact your senator.


NNDear Humanities Advocate,

This morning, Paul Ryan called for the complete elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities in his FY 2015 budget resolution.

Help defeat the Ryan Proposal today by urging your elected officials to join a bipartisan effort to support NEH. By signing on to the Senate Dear Colleague letter, your Senators can demonstrate support for NEH funding to the appropriations committee members that hold the agency’s future in their hands.

Click here to send our message to your Senators today. They are waiting to hear from you.

If you sent a message last week, thank you. If you haven’t sent one yet, it is critical that you act now. The deadline for Senators to sign on to the letter is Friday, April 4.

Thanks for your help!

Stephen Kidd, Ph.D.
Executive Director
National Humanities Alliance

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.