Acton Institute Powerblog

Federal Funding for the Humanities

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Hunter Baker, blogging at his new home on the American Spectator Blog (recently added to our blogroll), responds to a post by James G. Poulos, which emphasizes President Bush’s “proposed emphasis on math and science education, to the patent detriment of the humanities.”

Says Baker, “Although I am a faithful disciple of the humanities, I often take comfort in the fact that the majority of students won’t have much exposure to the offerings on hand. Better they remain busy with their business and engineering degrees than that they should hear too much of the soul-killing discourses that reign in the older buildings on campus.”

I have pointed out the funding disparities between the humanities and the sciences before in a paper given earlier this year (for a visual example of the disparity, click here). And Baker may well be right: what passes for the “humanities” in the acadmey today isn’t worth funding.

But in response to Poulos, the humanities, as they ought to be pursued, should receive more attention and funding commensurate with their value as the classical basis for Western civilization. But I also don’t think it’s in keeping with the humanist spirit to make their pursuit dependent on government funding, which is why I also point out, “public sources of funding, or the lack thereof, are not the end of the tale. Most freely available digital history initiatives are underwritten in whole or in part by private charitable foundations.”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Clare Krishsan

    Pertinent post!

    Could Acton not consider aligning some of its resources in this area?

    The Nuffield Foundation in the UK (endowed by Morris motorcars) proposes curriculum resources on areas of interest such as history and technology:,10,RSC.html [url=][/url]

    Imagine a ‘Leave No Child Behind’ plan for teaching natural law/economic personalism at each stage of development, using examples like the one John Stossel featured earlier this year on ABC TV, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” [url=]described here[/url].

    Sample teacher’s resource published by the Environmental Literacy Council (including free promos for Hershey’s kisses – now there’s an idea for you, underwriting by commercial partners) [url=]here[/url].

    Thanks for floating these opportunities in the blogosphere to connect seemingly unrelated topics, you do a great service for all who care about ethical global development.

  • How fine it is to see this issue has legs. In fairness I don’t think I urged public funding for the humanities so much as I decried the headlong rush toward government subsized technocracy — particularly at a level meriting a State of the Union plug.

    But if we do have a pile of money to be put somewhere, which we do, there could be no better spot to put it than the unified humanities, where there’s enough room to read seriously Nietzsche as well as Augustine under the aegis of Western civilization, and learn a bit about what in the world the United States of America is doing here on Earth in the process.