N.E.H. To Fund Grammar-School Teacher Training
Atlanta--Arguing that improving humanities programs in the high schools is an important step toward allowing all Americans "to be shareholders in our common culture," William Bennett, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, urged a group of state education officials, college and university representatives, and high-school teachers meeting here last week both to inject new rigor into those programs and to draw into them "every student in every school."
Although his remarks concentrated on high-school efforts, Mr. Bennett also said that the elementary schools have been overlooked for too long as the place to establish strong programs in the humanities. The endowment, he added, will soon announce a new program that will set aside $500,000 beginning in June 1984 to fund inservice training and summer institutes in the humanities for elementary-school teachers. Humanities programs in the nation's schools, Mr. Bennett said, should place more emphasis on the transmission of knowledge and less on the teaching of values. The beneficiaries of improved humanities programs, he said, should not merely be honor students but "every student in every high school--the dilettante, the indifferent, the Philistine, and even the hostile."
Mr. Bennett also urged humanities educators not to fear a "science and technology takeover," pointing out that educators do not make a good case for improvement of humanities programs when they criticize support for mathematics and science programs.
"To say that sciences are dehumanizing us is to misunderstand what the humanities are," Mr. Bennett said, adding that students need to understand technology. With such arguments, people in humanities "hurt their own cause more than they are hurt by science and mathematics," he said.
Mr. Bennett called on colleges and universities to come to the aid of high schools in developing humanities curricula--"if only in their own self-interest."
If universities do not make an ef-fort to improve education at the precollegiate level, he said, they will become "enclaves of eccentric curiosity."
"I am against the notion that the farther along in the educational continuum you are and the fewer students you teach, the more important you are," Mr. Bennett said. He pointed out that the humanities endowment, which spends $500,000 every workday in support of the humanities, is extending to high-school teachers summer seminar programs previously designed only for college faculty members.
Under the new initiative to support humanities in elementary schools, colleges and school districts will be invited to submit proposals for collaborative programs to provide inservice and summer training for humanities teachers. The details of the new grants program will be announced in a few weeks, Mr. Bennett said.
The purpose of the three-day conference, which is being sponsored by the endowment and the Educational Excellence Network based at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Public Policy Studies, is to explore ways of improving high-school humanities teaching.