The Higher Education Act contains some surprises in its 1,158 pages. One of the biggest of those surprises may be the American History for Freedom Program — a $25 million-a-year funding stream in the Department of Education to support centers for the study of Western civilization and the development of free institutions in American society. The National Association of Scholars has been lobbying for this quietly for the last six years, and found sponsors in Congressman Tom Petri of Wisconsin and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.
Essentially the provision puts significant federal support behind bringing a fair-minded view of Western civilization back to the curriculum. There are about 30 such centers around the country, many of them on a budgetary shoestring. If the program actually gets funded (a separate step), their prospects will be much brighter.
Steve Balch and I spill the beans about the program at the NAS website. We’re mindful that some of our friends won’t be especially happy to see a “big government” answer to the stubborn problem of keeping a key component of Western civilization in the curriculum and preserving a career track for traditionalist scholars. But take it for all in all, we think the American History for Freedom Program is a significant step forward.