Sunday, February 21, 2010

Geneva College Students Respond to Rendell's Plans to Cut History Funding

Last week I blogged about Ed Rendell's budget cuts to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. In that post I wrote briefly about the how the students at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA were reacting to this crisis and how I was going to try to rally the troops at Messiah College. Things seem to be happening. Here at Messiah we are in the process of signing a letter to Rendell (I will post it at a later date) and we have an op-ed appearing sometime in the next week in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Geneva History Club, led by their PR specialist Jake Kauffman, have also composed a letter to Rendell. I have pasted Kauffman's letter below.

Dear Governor Rendell,

I am a senior History major at Geneva College in Beaver Falls and a longtime resident of Carlisle. I write to you with grave concern over the state of history in this great state of Pennsylvania.

Here in my final semester of undergraduate school I am taking a course on the History of Pennsylvania. Though the semester is young, I have gained further affection and appreciation for the commonwealth as I continue my journey within it. What concerns me are the ongoing moves by the state government that are making history, well, history.

In this time of economic recession, you must truly be between a rock and a hard place in terms of where money should go. I can’t imagine the kinds of hard choices that this state has had to make and continues to make. However, I wish to ask that, due to its widespread importance to our lives, you do what it takes to preserve the history of Pennsylvania in all of its many forms – its parks, its county historical societies, its libraries, its nonprofit organizations, its Museum.

In the last year, I’ve been able to see in real, concrete ways how important history is. Working at Dickinson College’s Archives in Carlisle this past summer opened my eyes to a quiet but entirely vital world that exists largely without our notice. More practically and closer to home (so to speak), this past fall I based a senior research paper on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on invaluable material at the State Archives. Here is a place that helps legions of students, researchers, and citizens of all types do very real work, work that is as ultimately valuable to the commonwealth as construction work, legal work, health services, or other types of work are. I realized that places which preserve the past are here in order for us to make sense of the present. Their return is not measurable in dollars and cents. It is invaluable. Their demise would be and is both unimaginable and thoroughly dangerous to our health as a commonwealth.

What I’m learning about Pennsylvania and about this world in general is that it is wonderful to be in, to explore, to know. This task that we all bear - to understand what is around us - is both endless and limitless, and it can be best - or perhaps only - realized through the preservation of the past. In these hard times and with these hard decisions ahead, please keep history at the heart of what it means for Pennsylvania to be Pennsylvania.

Below is my signature, signatures of Dr. Eric Miller and his students in the History of Pennsylvania class that prompted this letter, those of Geneva College’s History Club, and others who love history.