October is a month of Hispanic Heritage, breast cancer awareness and Halloween, but, as of Oct.1, October became about the closing of the National Endowment for the Humanities with the Arts following close behind. We feel this is in grave error to not only our education system but to our nation as a whole.
All the members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned on Aug. 25 because they believed the same, and it was fueled by other actions of the president.
Others have argued that the NEH and the NEA don’t need to exist because donors are already giving money and time and will continue to give long after they’re disbanded. They are right. The problem comes from an effect similar to a bubble. New York raises money and supports New York; Los Angeles raises money and supports Los Angeles; Dallas raises money and supports Dallas; and while they may reach a bit beyond their city, the vast majority of the money will stay where it came from, helping just that city become more diverse and educated. This will create a separation of those who can understand different perspectives in this manner and those who only know one perspective. This then creates a whole other of issue of dividing our nation. The only way we become stronger is if we all become stronger. Sharing not the money, but the knowledge, the experiences and the diversity.
This has become a fight of politics, not a fight for humanity and we need to bring it back to that.
Congress established the NEH and NEA in 1965 with the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, according to the NEH website. The NEH and the NEA make up .013 percent of the total federal budget. The NEH and NEA have a matching donor policy that “means that every dollar of direct federal funding leverages up to $9 in private and alternate public funds.” The NEA “funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation,” while the NEH includes (but is not limited to) “the study and interpretation of language, linguistics, literature, history, jurisprudence, philosophy, archaeology, comparative religion, ethics, arts criticism and much more.”
Basically, the NEA gives us directors (films), choreographers (musicals/plays), writers (novels), while the NEH gives us individuals that look at the historical and critical context of art (such as Ken Burns). While the NEA may help win Pulitzers for musicals or fiction, the NEH helps win them for history and biographies. The NEA gave us the plays “August: Osage County,” “Hamilton” and “Next to Normal,” all of which won Pulitzer prizes; the NEH gave us Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” sixteen Pulitzer-winning books, including “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.”
Some may feel that we are biased; after all, we fall into the arts and humanities category but if that’s the case then we argue back that while we do fall into that category, we are also about getting information to the people and that is always a cause to fight for. And that is what the NEH and NEA does; they offer different perspectives while sharing topics that inform and enlighten.
The arts and humanities also offer a side of humanity not often accepted in more traditional jobs, such as business or engineering. However, studies have shown that the addition of arts and humanities offers a level of empathy needed for such work environments.
A Forbes Magazine opinion piece by Ashoka may have said it best: “One of the hallmarks of a successful business is its ability to harness creativity to constantly push into new territory. Without growth and innovation, businesses stagnate and eventually fade away. Those with staying power, however, have mastered an intangible, often overlooked factor that allows them to focus on the future with clarity: empathy. While that may surprise many, I am certain that the ability to connect with and relate to others—empathy in its purest form—is the force that moves businesses forward.”
Accepting an understanding of ideas and concepts that you may not agree with allows you to hold onto your morals while broadening the scope of the nation’s ethics and helps the world become better instead of limited by one perspective. Accepting the arts and humanities on a national level are all but the tip of a greater iceberg of limiting the division of this nation. Contact your local representatives, your national representatives, reach out to groups fighting for the continuation of the NEH and NEA, because if we don’t speak up then we agree with the decision to disband them. We want you to fight for the NEH and the NEA, because, with them, we can: offer opportunities to everyone, educate everyone and share the beauty of it with everyone, truly making this country great, at the cost of .013 percent.