President Trump has called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities as a part of his federal budget plan. Although Congress must ratify Trump's proposed budget, the president's desire alarms those that value education and educators. Politicians who call for better funding for teachers and students should support the NEH and its programs. Citizens concerned about the training of expert teachers and the wellbeing of students should, too.
I recently spent a week participating in an NEH seminar hosted by the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah entitled "Manifest Destiny Reconsidered: The Utah Experience." Over two weeks, more than 80 teachers from Utah and across the nation learned from experts at the University of Utah, Harvard University, BYU-Idaho and the LDS Church History Library. Topics included migration, anti-Indian violence, plural marriage and the transcontinental railroad. Before the seminar began, several Utah-based educators noted a lack of training for Utah studies courses as their desire to participate in the seminar. After their week of training, many reported feeling better prepared to teach these (required) classes.
One of the most memorable experiences was traveling to Bear River, Idaho, the site of a Native American massacre by the United States Army in 1863. Educators were able to hear from descendants of Native Americans who were murdered more than 150 years ago, who spoke with passion and insight that most never have the opportunity to hear. The NEH seminar presented a unique opportunity to learn how to teach about regrettable and tragic events from the views of all involved, not only white settlers. Today's students, who are much more attuned and interested in histories of non-Anglo settlers, are sure to benefit from their teachers having heard this message.