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March 2013

the latest from Suite 603

March 21, 2013

Summerville, the birthplace of sweet tea & southern hospitality
The 19th Annual South Carolina Humanities Festival is scheduled for April 18 - 21, 2013 in Summerville, SC.
Humanities radio
What's in a name? Hello Humanities Nebraska
The Odyssey Project "let me know that I can think; I can read; I can understand": Clemente courses as part of NHA's message to Congress
"Created Equal," councils, and civil rights programming
Humanities March Madness
For council staffs and boards: FedState website resources, nonprofit board oversight, and executive compensation
"How can we model the behavior we seek to inspire?" Education & educational opportunities

*Filmmaker and film preservationist Martin Scorsese will deliver the 2013 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. The event will be live-streamed from the NEH website. It will be viewable on a variety of devices, including phones/tablets, and will stream fairly seamlessly at a variety of resolutions including HD.
*The deadline for the Looking@Democracy challenge is April 30.
*Do you know about the new NEH blog? Check out HUMANITIES INSIGHTS. Each month it will feature a state humanities council.

Humanities radio

The Maryland Humanities Council has launched its radio program, Humanities Connection, on WYPR 88.1 FM in Baltimore. It will broadcast Mondays at 5:45 pm, with the first broadcast on March 18. After each broadcast, podcasts will be available at

The Maryland Humanities Council joins other councils that do work in radio. Mass Humanities has just announced that, starting in April, it is partnering with WAMC-Northeast Public Radio—along with the New York Council for the Humanities, the Vermont Humanities Council, the New Hampshire Humanities Council, Connecticut Humanities, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. The show, Ideas Matter: Checking in with the Public Humanities, will be hosted by The Roundtable’s Joe Donahue. It will air bimonthly. Mass Humanities writes that "WAMC is known for its superb coverage of news, ideas, and the stories that shape our lives; we can’t think of a better partner and better way to communicate the diversity of what all the state councils do than over its far-reaching signal."

NEH's Division of Public Programs has supported humanities radio for years. Learn about the Kitchen Sisters who have hosted many award-winning radio programs, including the NEH-supported Hidden Kitchens on NPR. The linked article appears in the new NEH Congressional Affairs blog.

What's in a name? Hello Humanities Nebraska

The Nebraska Humanities Council has just changed its name to Humanities Nebraska, part of a major rebranding that includes a new website and a new url and new email addresses for staff.

There have been quite a few name changes of councils in the last few years and Nebraska's change inspired us to do a tally of the kinds of names councils have and how the numbers fall out. Here they are:

Among the 56 state humanities councils, "council" is still in the majority with 36. The second runner up is "state + humanities" or "humanities + state" with 13. There are three "foundations," two "forums," one "endowment," and one "center."

Are there other options that are being considered? We're curious.

The Odyssey Project "let me know that I can think; I can read; I can understand": Clemente courses as part of NHA's message to Congress

Star Perry, Odyssey Project graduate, speaks to delegates of the National Humanities Alliance
Star Perry, Odyssey Project graduate, speaks to delegates of the National Humanities Alliance

Clemente courses starred at the National Humanities Alliance, Monday, March 18th, as participants prepared to meet their congressional delegations on Tuesday. The Illinois Humanities Council's Odyssey Project was represented by 2003 graduate Star Perry and Academic Director Amy Thomas Elder of IHC. The Odyssey Project also works with high school students. Timothy Patrick McCarthy, of Harvard University, spoke about his experience as a lecturer and Program Director of Clemente in Massachusetts, noting that he and his fellow Clemente professors consider their university and college positions to be "day jobs" and their Clemente teaching to be their real work. Mass Humanities Executive Director David Tebaldi talked about the longitudinal study carried out about the impact of Mass Humanities' Clemente Program.

For Star Perry, Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" opened her eyes to her possibilities. The Odyssey Project "let me know that I can think; I can read; I can understand."

An approach of this session was to stress the value of Clemente courses to helping participants take their places in society by means of employment, education, education of their children and families, and civic engagement and responsibility.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois opened the session. It was closed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts who noted that,"Asking 'why' is the basis of critical thinking."

See the newsletter article last month on the Utah Humanities Council 's Clemente course, the Venture Course.

"Created Equal," councils, and civil rights programming

Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer

***NEWS FLASH***The Division of Public Programs has just announced that the application guidelines for the "Created Equal" film sets have just gone online. Museums, public and academic libraries, and nonprofits will be eligible to apply for the film sets and small grants (up to $1,200) to support public programming. Films will be distributed beginning September 2013 and continuing through 2016.

"I believe that the four films that compose this project have begun a vital conversation about the meaning and legacy of our shared Civil Rights struggle," says Karen Mittelman, Director of the Division of Public Programs. "We learned recently that The Abolitionists has already been viewed by over 10 million people! The goal of the Created Equal project is to extend and deepen the conversations that are already taking place in our communities about the changing meanings of race, equality and freedom in American life."***NEWS FLASH***

NEH published a special edition of Humanities magazine to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

One of the articles is "Living History in Mississippi," featuring long-time Mississippi Humanities Council fiscal administrator Brenda Gray. She is quoted as saying, "The first time I heard of Fannie Lou Hamer was at this office. Why had I not heard of her before? I’m from a rural county, Smith County, in Mississippi; there were seventy-five students in my senior class, sixteen of them black." Gray is African American. "I never heard of Fannie Lou Hamer" until going to work at the Mississippi Humanities Council.

In addition to the full-page story of civil rights programming in Mississippi, this issue of Humanities includes four additional pages about the civil rights projects supported by state humanities councils all around the country.

Humanities March Madness

In concert with its "Spirit of Competition" initiative, Indiana Humanities has thrown down the March Madness gauntlet to humanities people.

Nancy Connor, director of grants, has set up the competition for the "humanities bracketologists" and will be happy to provide more information about "Humanities Hoops." She says that you do not need to have a contending team in your state. "The challenge is to see who among us has the most correct picks. You do not even have to pick your state's team if you don't think it will win"—or when there may be more than one team in your state in contention and this could cause a diplomatic challenge with your a significant other or a board member.

Go team!

For council staffs and boards: FedState website resources, nonprofit board oversight, and executive compensation

We've added three new pieces to the Federal/State Partnership resource library. One will provide you quick access to just about everything you need to know to work with NEH, Federal/State Partnership, and the Office of Grant Management. Please bookmark "Survey of the Federal/State Partnership website." This short piece quite literally will fill your digital file cabinet with information about navigating your way from one crucial document to an interesting council story to details about the insurance policies Federal/State Partnership provides councils to how to manage your five-year self-assessment and site visit.

One new document in the resource library is "What is 'Oversight' Anyway?," a collection of key things nonprofit boards need to know to do effective work. It is filled with links to other materials as well. What are a board's three key responsibilities? follow-through; seeing stability, not dollars; and avoiding trouble. If you're a board member, please read this. If you're council staff, please make sure your board members know about this.

Another new document is an infographic that breaks down nonprofit executive compensation by region, CEO gender, size of the organization's budget, and its program area. Of the latter, while the highest paid are those that require specialized knowledge, the humanities is not among the top five highly paid areas. No surprise.

"How can we model the behavior we seek to inspire?" Education & educational opportunities

"How can we model the behavior we seek to inspire? Do our boards, staff and volunteers reflect the diversity of the communities we serve? How can we be more inclusive?”

In the January 2013 newsletter, we announced that each issue of the newsletter through October will address issues raised by the theme of the November 2013 Federation conference in Birmingham, Alabama. The primary source for these surveys is the contextual section of councils' self-assessment report. We will use examples from all 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils in this series. Last month, we looked at the urban/rural divide. It is a natural progression to move from that divide to a survey of education and educational opportunities. Next month, we will explore the relationship between councils and books. We welcome your suggestions.

The state and jurisdictional humanities councils provide educational services—the humanities approach of seeking out evidence, looking at it from various angles, weighing it against other evidence, and discussing it with respect for differing points of view. Councils require that projects they fund incorporate the services of humanities professionals so as to provide balance. Initially founded on university campuses, some councils have acquired a certain amount of independence from academic establishments, both in terms of staff and board credentials and affiliations. Others remain located on academic campuses; benefit from academic services, healthcare, and pensions; or retain an academic bent on their boards. Some councils fund academic research; many support K-12 teacher professional development. All are at least in touch with their educational systems and institutions.

Regardless of the relationship between a council and its academic and educational institutional context, that context is an important part of the cultural toolkit with which councils work. The institutions of higher education, however, must be counterbalanced with the educational levels of the populace. Does a council program for those with baccalaureate or professional degrees, does it seek to mediate between the academic world and a less educated populace, does it serve the educationally underserved? Does it do all three? Educationally, how do councils model the behavior they seek to inspire?

The Lumina Foundation did an analysis of educational achievement in the 50 states, based on the 2010 census. Looking at adults, aged 25-64, they found that the US average is as follows: 8% had some attendance in grades 9-12 but had no diploma, 27% had a high school diploma, 22% had attended college but not graduated, 19% had a bachelor's degree, and 11% had a graduate or professional degree. Here is the educational context in which six councils work.

  • Wyoming has one university and seven community colleges. A four-year Catholic college has recently opened and a tribal college hopes to gain accreditation. Ninety-two percent of the population has high school or GED degrees or move. This is higher than the national level, but the number of residents holding college degrees is lower than the national average. Due to earlier energy boom revenues, Wyoming is one of nine states that spends $13,000 or more per student on K-12 education, higher than the national average. Because of recent strong economic health, the legislature has committed to Hathaway Scholarship funds for Wyoming high school students who attend the University of Wyoming, with current requirements including humanities courses.
  • In Texas, education is often at the center of public debates over spending, the appropriate size of government, and the state's civic and economic health. The Texas public school system consists of 1,227 school districts and charters, 8,529 campuses, more than 320,000 teachers, and 4.9 million students. Funding for public schools was decreased by $4 billion in the 2012-13 budget, though it appears that some of that support will be restored in 2014-­15. According to the Texas Education Agency, nearly one in three teachers leave the profession within five years. Humanities Texas works with universities to hold rigorous teacher professional development institutes, placing special emphasis on recruiting early-career teachers from low-performing schools and districts.
  • Connecticut remains a state of stark, often shocking contrasts. The gaps between the rich and poor and between the highly educated and the barely educated are wider than almost anywhere else in America. School humanities content is increasingly shallow and unappealing, and is getting weaker as the emphasis on STEM curriculum grows. Although home to many museums, libraries, historical societies, theaters and other cultural institutions, school field trips have all but disappeared as budgets are slashed and test scores rule. Particularly in urban areas, basic literacy is the crisis of the day. Connecticut businesses cannot find qualified workers, though the unemployment rate hovers around 8.5%.
  • Although South Carolina often ranks in the bottom ten states in educational attainment, it is incorrect to generalize that it neglects education or does not value it. It has 85 school districts and 79 public college campuses. For the first time, almost 80% of South Carolinians over 25 have a high school or GED diploma, and more than 20% have a college degree. The two-year technical college program is stellar, and many teachers have national certification. Twenty-six of the 46 counties are mainly rural, however, and it is there that education has difficulties. There, the 2011 poverty level was 20% or more than that of the state, the median household income was at least 10% lower, and unemployment was higher. Some of these counties graduate fewer than 50% of entering freshmen.
  • Louisiana continues to be a victim of poverty and low educational levels, in part due to natural disasters and external factors, but also to persistent policies of low-taxes, tax rebates, de facto segregated schools and even school systems, and inadequate investment in communities and infrastructure. While Louisiana has enacted significant education reform in the last seven years at all education levels, the correlation between Louisiana’s poverty and educational performance persists. Under the current administration, more than $650 million was cut from appropriations to higher education and a law to permit vouchers of for use in private and parochial schools has passed, but is presently suspended, having been ruled unconstitutional. There are 23 colleges and universities.
  • North Dakota had an 86% graduation rate for high school students in 2008-09. The breakdown by racial and ethnic groups was: White, 90%; Hispanic, 76%; African-American, 74%; Asian, 88%; and Native American, 62%. The high percentage of Native American students dropping out of high school is a serious problem. Twenty-eight percent of North Dakotans ages 21-74 have a bachelor’s degree, compared with a national average of 28%. Currently more than 30% of high school graduates take a least one remedial class in college. In 2009 North Dakota had 291 accredited public elementary schools and 196 accredited public middle level and secondary schools. There are eleven colleges and universities in the North Dakota University System, four private colleges, and five tribal colleges. In December 2012, the Census Bureau reported that North Dakota is the fastest growing state in the nation.


National Endowment for the Humanities
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 603
Washington, DC 20506
202.606.8254, main number
202.606.8365, fax

Edie Manza, director [ about ]
Kathleen Mitchell, senior program officer [ about ]
Meg Ferris, program analyst [ about ]
Shirley Newman, program assistant [ about ]

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National Endowment for the Humanities

Federal/State Partnership is the liaison between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the nonprofit network of 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils
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