Letter to the Editor: The Academic Vanguard on the Defensive

Below is a Letter to the Editor I wrote in response to Barton Swaim’s book review of Helen Smalls’ The Value of the Humanities; the review was published in The Wall Street Journal on February 14. You can read Mr. Swaim’s review here (note that you must be subscribed to The Wall Street Journal in order to view the content).

It is antithetical to argue for the humanities leadership position in education by writing a book for academics involved in the humanities. That is akin to asking the accused to vote on the verdict. Ms. Small might consider using her rhetoric to convince the students and their parents of the value of the humanities. More important, both Ms. Small and Mr. Swaim imply that the humanities and non-humanities disciplines are mutually exclusive. I believe that is a false dichotomy. One discipline does not make a curriculum. The careful construction of pedagogy and content includes a transdisciplinary approach, requiring professional education and the humanities be woven together in a holistic approach to discovery, articulation and innovation.

Stephen Spinelli, Jr, Ph.D.
Philadelphia University
Philadelphia, PA

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Pew Research Center: Millennials who graduate college earn significantly more than those who do not attend college

A Pew Research Center analysis of Census data, along with a Pew survey (discussed here), found that the Millennial generation — those between ages 25 and 32 — has a wider earnings gap between high-school graduates and college graduates than previous generations. The median income for millennial college graduates, in 2012 dollars, was $45,500, compared with $28,000 for high-school graduates.

“For Millennials, the only thing more expensive than going to college is not going to college,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president, special projects, at the Pew Research Center and an author of the paper.

Mr. Taylor said, “It’s really that today’s young adults who didn’t go beyond high school are doing much worse than their similarly educated counterparts” in earlier generations.

Even young people who had to borrow to pay for college are more satisfied with their career progress and prospects than high-school graduates without debt, Mr. Taylor said.

College remains one of the best investments that students — whether traditional, college-age students or returning adults — can make to achieve upward mobility through an enhanced career path. The Pew survey is “an affirmation that the group who went to college thinks it has been a good investment.”

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Amber Long ’11


I am deeply saddened to announce the death of alumna Amber Long ’11, who was murdered Sunday night during a robbery. Philadelphia University is a close-knit community where strong relationships thrive. It makes the intensity of our grief over Amber’s death even greater, our concern for her family profound. Amber was my intern during her senior year at PhilaU, making this even more personal and more painful for me.

Amber was a talented architect, working in a field she loved in the city she has come to love. She loved connecting beautiful design with practical needs. She told me many times, “I like designing beautiful buildings that people want to use.” She also was a talented artist. I commissioned Amber to paint “The Reichlin House,” an iconic building on our campus. This lovely painting hangs in the dining room of the President’s House, where I live.

Amber Long was part of the student team that won the grand prize for overall excellence in the 2009 Delaware Valley Green Building Council student design competition. Her winning design for a sustainable, co-operative food market was selected from more than 90 entries from an impressive roster of international schools. She further developed her artistic and architectural talents by spending a semester abroad in Rome.

Beyond the sadness and pain I feel over Amber’s senseless death, I am angry — and struggling with how to make my anger useful. I don’t believe the answers are easy or simplistic. But I know our society has to redouble efforts to find solutions to the violence that threatens our freedom, our lives and our humanity.

Funeral services for Amber Long are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 25, at Durst Funeral Home, 57 Frost Ave., Frostburg, Maryland 21532. Services will be held early afternoon, but the time can be confirmed later in the week by calling Durst Funeral Home at 301-689-8833.

Amber Long’s family has requested that donations be made to the Amber Long ’11 Scholarship at Philadelphia University for architecture students. Donations can be made online at http://www.PhilaU.edu/giving or sent to the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, 4201 Henry Ave., Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, PA 19144.

As a campus, we mourn the loss of Amber Long, and our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time.