Still on the table before the House Appropriations Committee is a bill to cut funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities by almost half.
If it were realized, it essentially would eliminate the Kansas Humanities Council, which relies on federal monies for much of its budget.
The NEH is a perennial target for some who, for whatever reason, fail to see the value of a rich arts and cultural tradition.
A goal of the humanities is to promote a region’s history through exhibits, discussions, films, and productions.
The Humanities are also a living work in progress, furthering discussion and enlightenment.
During the politically fractious times of the 1990s, the NEH conducted a series of “national conversations,” aimed at restoring civility and civic-mindedness. More than 1,400 forums were held across the country asking audience members to discuss what it meant to be an American at the height of the so-called culture wars, when the idea of “one nation, indivisible,” seemed threatened by ideological and religious divisions.
IN KANSAS, the humanities council — which is not a state agency — works to make a difference in civic and social life. This year’s highlights include “Created Equal,” a discussion on Civil Rights based on four documentaries. The communities of Wichita and Kansas City, Kan., will host the series.
Cultural Coffee Nights will be a venue for a discussion of the Muslim experience in Kansas. The goal is a series of conversations with a scholar and a local Islamic community leader to explore the differences and similarities of our two cultures. Cities expressing interest are Concordia, Emporia, Kinsley, Lansing, McPherson, Salina and Wichita.
“Turning Points: Stories of Change” is a partnership between KHI and communities to produce a series of 5-minute films that explore a pivotal moment in the history of each community. This year’s films will feature Hays Public Library, Kinsley Public Library, The Seed House — Casa de la Semilla — in Ulysses and the Deaf Cultural Center in Olathe.
Allen County is frequently a venue for Speakers Bureau presentations where historical figures are reenacted. This summer, the Miners Hall Museum in nearby Franklin participated with the KHI and the Smithsonian Institution on an interactive display about its rich mining history.
This is not fluff, but rather opportunities to better understand our neighbors and yes, ourselves, through civil discourse.
HOPE COMES from understanding. The study of language, literature, history, art, and religion — the humanities — help us to better understand our forefathers, our contemporaries, and our future.
So when someone raises a ruckus about discussing Islam, understand they speak from ignorance and fear.
Christian theologian Richard Rohr says while it’s important to know God, what we do with that knowledge is even more important.
In that same vein, he welcomes the study of other faiths.
“What does the diversity of healthy religions say about God, who is not threatened by differences?” he poses.
Islamist extremists tried to quash what they deemed their most vocal opponent, 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, last year by shooting her point-blank in the head. Her crime was continuing to attend school and speaking out against the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, a backward region that wants to keep its people, especially females, uneducated.
Miraculously, Malala survived.
Even though still under the threat of attacks, young Malala keeps up her crusade.
As for the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam, Malala says they are misguided.
“I think they have not read the Koran, because in Islam it is said that it is the right of every girl and every boy to get education, to get knowledge. Islam also tells us to respect each other and not to judge each other on the basis of religion,” she said in an interview with Margaret Warner on PBS’ Newshour program.
Malala contends that a combination of “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen, can change the world. Education is the only solution, education first.”
Malala is the face, the essence, of the humanities.
— Susan Lynn
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