The Humanities and Higher Ed

This week has been bookended by two issues that have been shaping my work.  Monday and Tuesday I was in Washington, DC for the annual meeting of the National Humanities Alliance and Humanities Advocacy Day.  The Pennsylvania delegation had the opportunity to meet with staffers for Representatives Chaka Fattah, Glenn Thompson, and Mike Doyle, as well as for Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey.      Our main focus was advocating for a restoration of NEH funding to FY 2010 levels–a request made by President Obama in his blueprint–giving the agency $154 million.

The “crisis in the humanities” narrative dominates the discourse for some of us, but I’m just as interested in setting the terms of the discussion in a constructive way–and getting to set them ourselves.  The humanities enrich civic life, they foster a lifelong love of ideas, and they facilitate innovation.  If I’m going to ask my students to take my classes in the humanities seriously (and spend an awful lot of money to be in them) for these reasons, then I’m going to go down to Washington to make the same case for the support we need to keep the humanities an integral part of the fabric of our lives.

I think making this case to my colleagues is important, too, and that’s something I’m pretty committed to as chair of my department.  So I’m glad to be finishing up this week by talking about what we look for in higher education leadership as part of a Guardian live chat.  Leadership, for me, is sharing this vision of how higher education can make our lives better, enrich the ways we live in our community, and think in innovative and creative ways.  And I also think that as a faculty member, I have an obligation to advocate for this vision on my campus and beyond.

Plus: it’s kind of cool to finish the week in the Brit Lit II survey with some student presentations on the Modernist Journals Project, and teaching Waiting for Godot in 20th Century British Drama.


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