American Historical Association Executive Director James Grossman recently testified before the House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. Speaking on behalf of the AHA and the National Humanities Alliance, Grossman urged the subcommittee to provide no less than $154.3 million to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for fiscal year 2013. This represents a small increase over the 2012 appropriation, and was the same amount requested by the Obama administration.
Grossman told the subcommittee that the current level of support going to NEH was “akin to plowing under our seed corn,” as young scholars find themselves unable to complete the research that goes into the books that launch academic careers. This has wide implications, Grossman argued. Without an understanding of our own heritage, those of other nations, and of foreign languages, he stated, “We can neither formulate informed foreign policy or even military strategy, nor compete in a global marketplace.”
Reminding the subcommittee that the NEH works outside the campus as well, he underscored the important role of the NEH in developing digital resources to make history more accessible to a wider audience. “To this generation of students, if it isn’t online, it doesn’t exist,” Grossman said. “Digital humanities programs supported by the NEH help ensure that students have ready access to the best scholarship.” One example, he continued, was the EDSITEment website , which allows teachers to quickly find high-quality, authoritative materials, lesson plans, and curricula suitable for use in K–12 classrooms.
Grossman pointed out that the NEH has been struggling to continue its important work under significant budget cuts (13.2%) between fiscal years 2010 and 2012. He called the reversal of this trend a “vital investment in the nation’s global competitiveness, the strength and vitality of our civic institutions, the preservation and understanding of our diverse cultural heritage, and the lives of our citizens.”
The subcommittee heard testimony from a diverse group that included Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University; Hunter R. Rawlings III, President of the Association of American Universities; Paul Ulrich, board member of the Wyoming Humanities Council, speaking on behalf of the Federation of State Humanities Councils; and many others.