Skip to main content
Black Man Teaching a Classroom of Students
Opinion March 8, 2024

Protecting the Humanities to Protect Humanity

Black Man Teaching a Classroom of Students

As if the country weren't already fighting for its life every other day, the American legislature recently decided to throw another pinch of spice into the chaos potluck: attacking our educational system (once again).

Earlier last month, the House of Representatives rejected a proposed amendment to the FY 2024 House Interior Appropriations bill, introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA-10), that would have eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The House voted 292–132 to strike down the amendment, with 207 Democrats and 85 Republicans comprising the 292 representatives opposed. This is also the first time since July 2018 that House representatives have taken a vote specifically regarding the NEH.

The NEH was initially established in 1965 by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act. Such projects or initiatives that have been funded by the NEH include this proposed effort to defund the NEH joins an alarming uptick in recent years to target, restrict, or otherwise attack educational curricula and programs across the country. Historically, funding for our nation's cultural endowments has received broad bipartisan support.

I'm a recent graduate myself, having earned my Bachelor's degree in English — with one of my minors being History — just last August. Despite lacking the verbiage to describe it at the time, I fondly remember how pivotal the arts and humanities were in my own educational upbringing: I was an orchestra kid for a decade, [warbling?] my way through the violin before discovering the cello, and I treasured the forcibly silent sanctity of quiet reading time amid the maelstrom of my school days.

Alongside the actual goals of learning the fundamentals and developing skills to transfer over into whatever professional paths we may take, the point of education is to foster critical thinking, cultivate empathy, and promote a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.: the humanities help us make sense of it all. To make every attempt to restrict or outright do away with initiatives or curricula seeking to incorporate that into our education systems is a reckless, dangerous disservice to future generations.

Organizations to support:

Like many other scholars, advocates, and educators for the humanities across the nation — both seasoned veterans and young sprouts just entering into the field — I breathed a sigh of relief on the evening of November 3rd when the final vote was announced. However, we must continue to advocate for the humanities and ensure their sustained prominence in our educational institutions and society at large. When we fight, we can truly win.

Alaina Ruffin is a writer and fierce advocate residing in Northern Virginia. She recently graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from George Mason University with a B.A. in English Writing & Rhetoric.