Private-Sector Donors Give $2.25 Million for Phila. Humanities Project
Philadelphia--A group of Philadelphia businesses and private foundations has donated $2.25 million to promote the teaching of humanities in the city's public schools.
The money will fund the Philadelphia Alliance for Teaching Humanities in the Schools (paths), believed to be the first program funded completely by private groups that concentrates on improving the teaching of the liberal arts in public schools.
The program's first major effort will be aimed at improving the teaching of writing.
The paths initiative was announced at a news conference last week by Superintendent of Schools Constance E. Clayton and leaders of the Committee to Support Philadelphia Public Schools, a recently formed coalition of corporations, universities, and foundations.
"I'm rather hopeful this will become a showpiece for the humanities, not that it will be replicated but that other cities will pick up the notion and shape it for their particular needs," said Andrew Heiskell, former chairman of Time Inc. and now head of the President's Committee for the Arts and Humanities.
Mr. Heiskell said he had approached the Rockefeller Foundation about providing funds for such a program as part of a national effort to improve the state of the humanities. They settled on Philadelphia, Mr. Heiskell said, "because there seemed to be active leadership, particularly in relation to Miss Clayton."
The Rockefeller Foundation will contribute $150,000 to paths. The bulk of the funding, $1.35 million will come from the Pew Memorial Trust, which is based in Philadelphia and is a member of the Philadelphia school support committee. This is the trust's second major grant to the district. The first, a $2-million award last year, funded a job-search training program for students of the city's public high schools.
In addition, a group of Philadelphia corporations has committed $150,00 a year for the next three years to the program.
Ralph S. Saul, chairman of the Cigna Corporation and head of the support committee, noted at last week's news conference that the effort here differs from private-sector involvement in other large urban school districts because it focuses on the humanities rather than on science and mathematics.
Teach Critical Thinking
Mr. Saul asserted that the humanities are the subjects in which students learn critical thinking and analytic reading skills.
"Effective teaching in the humanities is essential to a healthy eco-nomic, civic, and cultural environment," he said.
Ms. Clayton added that the focus on writing as paths's first project would "restore the process of thought and analysis as critical components of a child's learning in the classroom."
"Language is the root of all learning," she said.
"Its mastery is critical to the thought process and writing is the gateway to that mastery," she added.
The writing project will have three major elements:
The development of a writing curriculum by faculty members of Philadelphia-area colleges and uni-versities.
Training in the teaching of writ-ing for up to 800 public-school teachers from all subject areas.
Workshops for at least 300 high-school students conducted by Philadelphia journalists, playwrights, and poets.
Also this year, paths will begin awarding "mini-grants" of $600 for teachers and $10,000 for schools making proposals for projects in the humanities. Richard H. De Lone, senior consultant to the program, said up to $150,000 of this year's budget may be spent on these grants.