Proposed federal budget cuts will all but eliminate humanities

Your town’s library reading program. Understanding the Native American boarding school tragedy. The discussion with veterans about post-traumatic stress disorder.

The special arts program at the third grade classroom. Reviewing the effects of poverty on our culture. These are just a few examples of quality cultural programs sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is a very strong supporter of the Michigan Humanities Council. Because of the support we receive, approximately 150,000 Michigan citizens learned about their heritage, the importance of literacy for everyone, the benefits of civility and about how exciting it can be to learn about the culture and traditions of another person.

Through the work of the Michigan Humanities Council families in most of Michigan’s 83 counties discovered special common ground in what is often viewed as a fragmented society.

Whether in a large city or small village, our Michigan residents found gathering spaces in our state’s libraries, museums, living room book clubs, book stores, coffee houses and other neighborhood places.

Our children built their confidence levels through poetry competitions, by learning to read better, by exploring and savoring their family’s unique history, or through inspiration from a speaker who opened their eyes to a new world.

They gathered as students, as grandchildren, as volunteers. They learned through the Museum on Main Street program, or the Great Michigan Read, or by attending an event at their local museum or library, or by participating in a local cultural event or program.

For adults, learning to be a savvy voter, or becoming a more engaged citizen or worker taught them about their community, their region, their state, and their country.

Through humanities programming, we all develop an increased awareness of what it takes to achieve our goals and dreams in a competitive global economy.

Through 1,053 events last year supported by the Michigan Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Michiganders got to know their neighbors better and gained a richer understanding of themselves as well. For every dollar that Michigan Humanities invests and regrants into Michigan, the community match is equal to the amount invested.

In District 1, Michigan Humanities Council has been a long time partner with Peter White Public Library in Marquette, serving local families with Prime Time Family Reading Time programs and grants, serving schools and libraries with Arts and Touring Grants, and entire communities with Great Michigan Read since 2007.

Over 50 community partners in District 1 participated in the 2015-16 Great Michigan Read, receiving free books and materials. District 1 has also received Humanities Grants and Heritage Grants totaling over $73,000 in FY 2016 alone. Seven school systems from District 1 sent a school champion to the Poetry Out Loud State Finals in 2017, with the State Champion coming from District 1 in 2015. Michigan Humanities Council has a longstanding investment in the Upper Peninsula.

Two Smithsonian Traveling Exhibitions have visited the Upper in the past two years, creating community partnerships and interactions that spread far beyond their township lines.

The proposed federal budget calls for elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities and in turn, the Michigan Humanities Council.

With one decision, 50 years of essential federal-state-local partnerships in Michigan and throughout the nation and its territories will cease long with it will go the benefits provided through humanities-based programming.

Our schools need the work of the endowment and the council to teach tomorrow’s generation of leaders. Our communities need the work of the endowment and the council to create understanding and tolerance among their residents, our nation and our world need the humanities so we never forget the human stories that serve as the basis for all foundations.

The 22 volunteer members of the board of the Michigan Council for Humanities urge you to reach out to your federal elected officials and strongly encourage them to NOT allow the people of our nation to lose the benefits the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Michigan Humanities Council provide statewide. Imagine the impact of losing this vital resource.

It will be our children and our grandchildren who lose the most. As tomorrow’s leaders, workers, teachers and technicians, they need these lessons of life more than ever before. For more information on how to protect the programs that make our nation strong, please visit Understanding one another, and how we function as a society is at stake.

Editor’s note: Kathleen Mullins, Ph.D., is board chairwoman is the Michigan Humanities Council. Shelly Kasprzycki is executive director of the Michigan Humanities Council.