A National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for Middle and High School Teachers

July 10 - July 29, 2022 (3 weeks)

NEH Seal

Location: Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts

Director: Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science

Meetings: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday - Friday. These will be in person on the Amherst College Campus.

Punishment: The American Story Institute has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.


Welcome from the Director



Dear Colleague:

Welcome and thank you for your interest in the NEH Summer Institute, Punishment: The American Story.

I am very excited about the chance to work with you and explore together some of the most important and challenging ideas in the humanistic study of law, politics, and culture. I have had the good fortune to direct several previous NEH programs for school teachers. Each of them was a wonderful experience. I am eagerly looking forward to assembling another group of diverse, talented and interesting group of colleagues.

From the Gospel of Matthew to George Bernard Shaw and former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, many have remarked that how, when, and why a society punishes reveals its true character. Punishment then tells us who we are. The way a society punishes demonstrates its commitment to standards of judgment and justice, its distinctive views of blame and responsibility, its understandings of mercy and forgiveness, and its particular ways of responding to evil. Punishment: The American Story is intended to examine the nature and limits of punishment as well as its place in this nation’s complex history.

As you know, the subject of punishment shows up in the curriculum of schools across the country, in history, social studies, and literature courses to name just a few. Teachers regularly teach texts in which the fact of punishment, its purposes, or its fairness are central issues. We will explore new ways to bring those issues into your classroom. Moreover, students often have direct experience with law enforcement and bring those experiences, and their complex reactions to them, to school. Throughout our discussions we will ask  how issues of punishment encountered in school settings are illuminated by the texts we read.

To help accomplish this goal, I will work with Roy Blumenfeld who has taught high school at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, an independent K-12 school in New York City, since 2014. We also will be joined by a truly distinguished group of Visiting Faculty who will bring diverse perspectives to our subject as well as their expertise and insight.

I am looking forward to welcoming you to Amherst College’s beautiful campus. Participants in this Institute will be Visiting Scholars with full access to the college library, museums and athletic facilities.

No particular background is required for this Institute. You will need the interest and willingness to tackle rich and provocative material, and the patience to try to grapple with some of the most important contemporary issues of justice. If you are passionately engaged in current political and social issues, you would make an important contribution to the Institute. If you are a lover of literature and culture and are curious about the way either treats punishment, you would be most welcome. Or, if you are a physicist, librarian, administrator, or teacher whose curiosity is aroused by any of the words I've used to describe the seminar, you will benefit from the Institute, and be of great help to the rest of us. Given our subject, almost everyone should have valuable things to say.

At the conclusion of the Institute, I will be happy to provide each participant with a credit equivalency letter explaining how much in-service or graduate credit I believe participation in the seminar should carry.

I will be holding several information sessions if you would like to join me to hear more about the Institute. The dates and times are:

DECEMBER 4 at 1 pm EST 

JANUARY 8 at 1 pm EST

FEBRUARY 5 at 1 pm EST

The zoom link/info is the same each session


Meeting ID: 938 8822 6265  Passcode: 880924

But please reach out to me at any time if you have any questions.

I look forward to reading your application and to working with you next summer.

Austin Sarat


Application. Application information is included on the website in the section HOW TO APPLY.

If you have any questions about the institute or the application process feel free to call me at 413-542-2308 or e-mail me at adsarat@Amherst.edu or my assistant, Megan Estes at 413-542-2380 or at mlestes@amherst.edu


March 1, 2022: Deadline to submit your application

How to submit your application:

 The Application

In addition to the Application Form, we also ask that you complete the document with additional questions and upload that to your Application with your Resume.


Additional Application Questions

Please answer the Additional Questions for the application. There will be a place to upload your documents to the online application.

 A Résumé

Please include a résumé or curriculum vitae (not to exceed five pages). There will be a place to upload your documents to the online application.



March 1, 2022: Deadline to submit your application

How to submit your application: submit using the online application at https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/ljst/neh/application-questions-for-neh-2022

For inquiries about the seminar application, please contact:

Megan Estes Ryan, Academic Dept. Coordinator

ATTN:  2022 NEH Summer Seminar

LJST Dept. Amherst College

PO BOX 5000

Amherst, MA   01002

413/542-2380  e-mail: mlestes@amherst.edu


Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on Friday, March 25, 2022. They will have until Friday, April 8, 2022 to accept or decline the offer.

 Note: Once you have accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (NEH Summer Institute), you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.


Thanks once again for your interest.

Sincerely yours,

Professor Austin Sarat

Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought

Amherst College

Amherst, MA 01002

413-542-2308 (phone)                                                                                                                                                            413-542-2264 (fax)