I’ll throw this one over to my friend at The Occasional for reporting on this nasty tidbit, but after reading about it through another friend’s Twitter feed, I couldn’t help but mention it myself.
It seems that in the *search for wasteful taxes*, Fox News and the American Taxpayer’s Union have banded together to attack the National Endowment for the Humanities, claiming the small amount of cash the national government throws its way each year is a burden on American taxpayers. They mention month-long “vacations” to exotic locales, where college professors sight-see on the taxpayer’s dime. Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse mocks money spent in the Rediscovering Afghanistan initiative, in which scholars are working to study and preserve the history of the region–a task in which we are already far behind, considering our military presence there. Some of the projects he points out may seem ridiculous, but all contribute to expanding the field of scholarship and educating American students.
If you don’t believe me, watch the video yourself.
Now, if the idiots over at Fox News would had majored in anything other than business or political science when they were in college, they might realize that funding for the humanities has been going down the toilet for years. Deficits in university budgets has moved administrators to shift funding away from the humanities, funneling it instead into “glamorous” departments that will yield them a bigger crop of wealthy alumni. I’m not saying science or technology doesn’t deserve that money either, but it’s clear that university administrators already devalue the worth of an education in the humanities, and public perception isn’t far behind. Considering that a majority of the public chose to opt out of their college English classes, it’s no surprise very few understand the worth of studying Shakespeare or poetry.
Andrew Hazlett at The Occasional also makes a good point.
Teachers are woefully unprepared, universities are cutting back on the liberal arts and humanities, momentarily fashionable theories burn through academic departments with the speed of clothing trends, media are in the midst of revolution, museums and libraries are struggling against long financial odds and changing audiences… in all this chaos, the (comparatively) modest grants made by the NEH are a conservation tool. They sustain the quiet, essential work of scholarship and teaching on life’s biggest questions.
Like I said, I was an English major but other humanities departments deserve the self-same respect. For Fox News to pick on the National Endowment for the Humanities (who, by the way, receive a TINY sliver of government funding…”decimal dust” a congressional staffer called it) reveals the lows they’re willing to reach for rating. “Hey, the ‘everyman’ surely doesn’t understand Shakespeare. Let’s get them morally outraged at liberal professors spending thousands of dollars studying that worthless hack! It’s not really news, but surely it will appeal to our conservative base.” Give me a break.