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John Fea: Pennsylvania is Erasing Its History

Roundup: Historians' Take




[John Fea is an associate professor of American history at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. He blogs at www.philipvickersfithian.com.]

The writer Robert Penn Warren once wrote, "History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future."

Gov. Rendell apparently does not agree. His recent decision to cut more state funding for museums and historical sites should be of grave concern to anyone who cares about the future of Pennsylvania....

Virtually every other state museum or historical site in the commonwealth has either significantly reduced its hours or closed its doors. The list of closures includes the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh and the visitors center at Washington Crossing Historic Park in Bucks County....

Without history, our collective identity is erased. Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th-century observer of American democracy, understood this well. Americans, he said, are always in danger of producing a generation that "forgets its ancestors," whose members "acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone" and are "apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands." They have no sense of being part of a human community that has existed through time....

These cuts will also mean that people lose jobs. As a college professor who trains young men and women to work in public history, I am concerned about opportunities for those who want to dedicate their lives to historical vocations.

But I am even more concerned about what this drastic reduction in funding for historical places will mean for Pennsylvania, and for the ability of its people to face the future.
Read entire article at Philadelphia Inquirer

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