Those who accuse the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) of elitism in today's budget-cutting frenzy have it all wrong. On the contrary, the NEH has distinguished itself for its even-handed, egalitarian fairness. As a fortunate participant in NEH-sponsored programs, I can speak directly from experience. In 1978, I received a research grant from the endowment to compile an English translation of the Navajo creation story, Dine bahane. Like other tribal peoples whose traditional poetry went unnoticed for centuries, the Navajos can contribute mightily to any list of the world's great books. All they need is the kind of unassuming recognition that the NEH fosters.
The endowment has special summer and year-long programs exclusively for teachers at four-year and community colleges to do research. The agency also invests in some of the country's smallest towns and least-populated counties, not only by funding books and media projects, but by subsidizing small exhibits and community lectures. This agency has stood alone in its willingness to appraise neglected cultures by the same time-tested universal standards it applies to Europe's benchmark works.
Paul G. Zolbrod Meadville, Pa.
Professor of English
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