In early July I spent a week in Amherst, Massachusetts studying the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson with 39 other like-minded teachers, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I know them’s fightin’ words to some strident right-wingers who don’t think we should be spending tax money on such frivolous things . . . like art and poetry.
1997 was the first year I remember any hullabaloo on the matter. Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, the Republican Majority Leader at the time, stated, “The National Endowment for the Arts has always been bigger than life. What makes it so big? It is made big by the concerted, well-funded, well-motivated efforts of the arts elite in America who want the focus to be not whether or not there will be funding for the arts but whether or not they ...