Ronald Reagan understood ‘the humanities teach us who we are’ — what’s happening today?

President Donald Trump’s budget eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, along with other arts and culture agencies.

WHY should we use tax dollars to support the humanities? President Donald Trump’s proposed budget says we shouldn’t. It eliminates the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), along with other arts and culture agencies.

The president’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, tried to rationalize these cuts by dismissing the arts and humanities as elitist, asking, “Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?”

What Mulvaney failed to mention is the NEH costs only 62 cents per taxpayer each year. That’s the change you might find between the seat cushions of your car.

More important: Far from being elitist, the humanities unite us. They instill in all of us empathy and compassion, along with critical thinking and communication skills.

We live in a complex, interconnected world. People who know how to bridge divides between people, cultures and ideas are better positioned to build strong communities — and provide value in the workplace. To be sure, STEM education provides students with important math, science and technology training. But employers also seek individuals who can think creatively, and who possess strong written and oral communication skills.

I have seen the power of the humanities through the study of foreign language and literature. Today, the United States is split by differences. One hundred years ago, Finland was split by deeper divisions, which led to its 1918 Civil War. The human toll included thousands of deaths, trials and field executions. Afterward, bitterness, resentment and division persisted.

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