N.E.H. Awards Four Teacher-Training Grants
The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced the first grant recipients in its special initiative to improve the quality of teacher preparation in the humanities.
The grants, which totaled about $450,000, went to four colleges. Officials said they marked a significant change in the priorities of the endowment, which previously provided funds mainly for inservice activities for experienced humanities teachers.
Up to $2 million has been authorized for distribution in fiscal 1985 under the new initiative.
Content vs. Methodology
The initiative, "Improving the Preparation of Teachers in the Humanities," was proposed by the neh chairman, William J. Bennett, last winter. At the time, he said he was convinced that teacher candidates needed to spend more time becoming masters of the subject areas they would teach and less time studying methodology.
There is a "critical national problem" in the training of teachers in the humanities, he said in announcing the new awards late last month. "For far too long, we have trained teachers to know all about how to teach and too little about what they teach in the humanities."
The four colleges selected to receive the grant awards will develop or expand broadly based projects that involve collaboration between humanities scholars, teacher educators, teachers, and school administrators. The recipients are:
The University of Kentucky--a $142,967 grant to develop a sequence of courses for majors in secondary education who plan to teach social studies or language arts. The program, which will stress the reading of classical works, is a cooperative effort between the university's honors program and the college of education. The university will also sponsor summer seminars in the humanities for high-school teachers and prospective supervising teachers of students in the program.
Kenyon College--a $62,334 grant to expand a program that will develop college-level courses for high schools to be taught jointly by professors and teachers. The college will also develop, with additional support from the U.S. Education Department's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, a teacher-training link with the Bank Street School of Education in New York City in an effort to draw more liberal-arts majors into teaching.
Middlebury College--a $72,285 grant to offer a summer humanities institute for teacher educators involved in the preparation of social-studies teachers. The institute, titled "Toward a More Perfect Union: Studies in American Federalism, 1781-1869," will expose the educators to the principal documents and significant commentaries from the Federalist Papers to the writings of de Tocqueville. It will also bring eminent scholars to the campus to lecture.
University of Virginia--a $175,000 grant to develop and validate the Virginia Information Test, which is used in the state to measure students' levels of "cultural literacy." The project, headed by E. Donald Hirsch, attempts to define the essential information that is the foundation of cultural literacy and to determine whether possession of this information enhances students' ability to understand texts.
A 'Special Interest'
The new grant initiative is not a line-item category in the endowment's $140-million budget but rather an "area of special interest" that "cuts across several program lines," according to Richard Ekman, director of neh's division of education programs. The endowment will now make its higher-education6grants "more responsive" to applications that have as their goals "changes in teacher certification and training."
He said the teacher-preparation initiative adds a preservice dimension to the endowment's educational programs. "It is the first time we've done something this deliberate in the area of preservice education,'' Mr. Ekman said.
Other Education Efforts
The neh also funds several grant programs for already established teachers, including summer seminars for secondary-school teachers and humanities institutes for elementary and secondary teachers and principals.
According to Mr. Ekman, about one-third of the education division's $18-million budget goes to funding elementary- and secondary-education programs, with up to $4 million of that amount supporting institutes for principals and teachers. About $3 million is spent annually on summer seminars for secondary-school teachers, he said.
More Applications Sought
The endowment is seeking more applications from higher-education institutions wishing to develop humanities-education projects. According to Mr. Ekman, a good project would bring together methods courses handled by the education faculty and content courses taught by humanities faculty members. Besides bringing together two different parts of a college or university, projects may also work to establish links between the institution, the schools, and the state education agency, he explained.
For further information about the teacher-preparation initiative or other neh programs, write or call Richard Ekman, director of Division of Education Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.. Washington, D.C. 20506, (202) 786-0373.