J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

“The NEH folks are our guys”?

Ira Stoll, a recent biographer of Samuel Adams, published an essay at Reason questioning Mitt Romney’s campaign promise to “eliminate” the National Endowment for the Humanities. It strikes me, too, as unlikely that Romney thought through that program’s costs and benefits as opposed to, say, just tossing out a name he thought his audience at that moment would like to hear and wouldn’t get too upset about.

Stoll argues for a deeper consideration of the N.E.H. because, well, it funds programs he likes. And he thinks that other people who invoke the Founders for their political ideas should, logically, like them, too.
  • “Well, to start with, at least for those of us on the center-right of the political spectrum, the NEH folks are our guys. The list of NEH Jefferson Lecturers looks like the bylines in Commentary or on the Wall Street Journal editorial page:…”
  • “With the possible exception of the National Park Service, no federal agency has done more to raise consciousness of the American Revolution than the National Endowment for the Humanities. . . . NEH grants have financed weeklong workshops run by the Massachusetts Historical Society that teach schoolteachers about the battles of Lexington and Concord. NEH grants help fund Colonial Williamsburg, financed a PBS program on Alexander Hamilton, and underwrite the projects to publish the papers of George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson in comprehensive and careful modern scholarly editions.”
Check the comments on the essay to see how well that argument went over with the Reason crowd.


Will Hickox said...

Whoa. To read the comments on the essay is to weep for humanity.

Matthew Wilding said...

I hate the idea of agreeing with Ira Stoll, but I'll hold my nose and do it.