Texas Insights - May 2011

Volume I, Issue 5

What’s New?

The spring semester is in so many ways the culmination of many efforts both inside and outside the classroom. It is also the season for a variety of contests and the recognition of the very hard work demonstrated by numerous students and the teachers who guide them. Numerous organizations offer opportunities for elementary and secondary students to be creative and share their knowledge of Texas history, geography, civics, economics and other areas which comprise Texas studies. Please join us in commending the quality efforts demonstrated by our young people and their mentors in the programs listed below and please consider these Baker MS Quiz Show Teamvaluable programs as a way strengthen and enrich your classroom and school programs next year. Simply click on the links below to see more about the winners and programs.

The Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) offers a variety of programs with classroom and extracurricular connections. This year's Texas Quiz Show program winner was Baker Middle School from Corpus Christi who beat out teams from Anderson, College Station, Keller, LaGrange, Lewisville, Round Rock, and Sanderson to be the 2011 state champs! On May 7, results of this year's Texas History Day state contest were announced as nearly 1,200 students presented their various projects to see who would Senior Group Exhibit from Falfurrias HSrepresent Texas at National History Day in June. Earlier this spring, TSHA's Junior Historians program announced the results of its annual witing contest, history fair and chapter achievement awards. Last but not least, on March 4, Dr. Randolph "Mike" Campbell of the University of North Texas was announced as the 2010 Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan Leadertship in Education Award recipient which frequently goes to secondary educators.

Other organizations also work equally hard to provide engaging educational activities for our youth. Among these are Project Citizen from Law-Related Education whose state level showcase on May 14 will present the best of its civics oriented education. The Texas Council on Economic Education offer a variety of programs in cluding the Stock Market Game which is open to students in 4th through 12th grade. The Texas Alliance for Geographic Education and various other organizations make the National Geographic Geography Bee available to students in 4th-8th grade with Tiné Valencic a 7th Grader from Colleyville Middle School who will represent Texas at the summer's national contest. Several organiztions make writing and art award opportunities available including the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the Texas General Land Office and Celebrate Texas. Of course, the University Interscholastic League has local opportunities for middle school students and a state level structure for high school students. A number of other opportunities are also available for high school students from organizations like the Friends of the Governor's Mansion, the Sons of the Republic of Texas, the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation, and We The People from Law Related Education. You can find information about most of the above opportunities on TeachingTexas.org. Congratulations to all the students and their teachers for a job well done!

Reflecting on Significant Anniversaries

On August 12, 2011, TSHA will host Reflecting on Significant Anniversaries: The Legacies of the Civil War and Houston’s Founding, at the University of Houston. The workshop will include presentations by: Dr. Jerry Thompson, Dr. Patrick Williams, Dr. Joe Pratt, TSHA, Law Focused Education, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Portal to Texas History, the General Land Office, the Williamson Museum, and the Texas Council on Economic Education. A pre-conference workshop will be held on August 11, where teachers will visit the Nau Civil War Collection, the Torch Energy Collection, “Texas! The Exhibit” at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the William H. Wilson House. See TeachingTexas.org for details.


Summer Teacher Institutes

Humanities Texas will hold a series of institutes for teachers throughout Summer 2011. The Summer Teacher Institutes will be held at The University of Texas-Austin, Texas A & M International, the University of Houston, Texas Christian University, The University of Texas-San Antonio, and The University of Texas-El Paso. The Houston and Fort Worth institutes will cover U.S. History through Reconstruction, and the Austin, Laredo, El Paso, and San Antonio institutes will cover U.S. History from Reconstruction. Though the series targets U.S. history classes, there is a correlation to the new Texas TEKS and could be useful for any social studies teacher. See TeachingTexas.org for more information.

Featured Institution

Screening Texas History: Teach Texas at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Texas Archive of the Moving Image With over 1,200 films relating to Texas history and culture, the Texas Archive of the Moving Image is a valuable resource for teachers wanting to utilize films in the history classroom. TAMI’s ever-growing collection includes both primary and secondary resources including home movies, advertisements, television programs, industrial films, actualities, newsreels and more. All films are streaming for free at www.texasarchive.org.

TAMI encourages the use of its films in the K-12 classroom through “Teach Texas,” an online resource kit providing lesson plans, activities, and other helpful information at www.teachtexasfilm.org. The website features lesson plans on a variety of topics including the oil industry, ranching, WWII, commerce, aereospace, and more. All lesson plans and activities directly address the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for social studies. Plans can be viewed from the website or downloaded in PDF format.  

The newest addition to “Teach Texas” is “Documenting Texas History,” a historical filmmaking project for middle school and high school students. This unit addresses social studies, English and video technology TEKS through the production of a film focused on local history. Finished projects with be featured on the TAMI Video Library.

“Teach Texas” and the TAMI Video Library will continue to expand as more films and lesson plan topics are added. Educators can join the TAMI email list for updates about new films and lesson plans. More information is also available by contacting Elizabeth Hansen at (512) 485-3073 or education@texasarchive.org.

Historian's Corner

Grappling with Difficult Issues in Late 20th Century Texas History
By Sean P. Cunningham
Assistant Professor of History
Texas Tech University

Teaching recent Texas history presents numerous challenges for educators and researchers alike.  For one thing, there is a school of thought that today’s historians remain too closely connected to the recent past to be objective in their analysis of that past.  These concerns are typically magnified by the multifaceted and controversial nature of the historical narrative since the end of World War II.

To study Texas history since 1945 is to discuss the origins and legacies of civil rights and the quest for racial, ethnic, and sexual equality.  It is to discuss the state’s response to the development of a global foreign policy, the Cold War, the war in Vietnam, and the growth of anti-communism at home.  But that’s not all.  It also opens the door to discussions of the growth and responsibilities of government, tax revolts, and the forces causing recessions, energy crises, and prosperity.  Teaching recent Texas history also demands attention to the rise of a socially and politically mobilized evangelical Christian Right.  That discussion might also lead a teacher back to issues of gender by way of Roe v. Wade (1973) – a Dallas-based case – and the issue of abortion.  In short, to teach recent Texas history is to tread in controversial waters.

Within this multifaceted and complex narrative, teachers may find some relatively safe waters simply by exploring the various ways in which the state’s economy has changed since 1945.  Most students have not given much thought to the paradigmatic shifts in the postwar Texas economy, which enabled mass movement away from farms and into cities.  Accompanying urbanization was a spike in manufacturing employment, insurance and banking centers, electronics and technology hubs, and even in a budding tourism industry.  Stereotypes being what they are, images of the Texas farmer, the Texas rancher, and even the Texas oil tycoon overshadow the reality of a globally engaged economy.  I’ve also had some luck connecting these dynamic economic changes with cultural changes, particularly when studying the 1970s.  Students seem to respond to popular culture, and trends in 1970s “Texas chic” – ranging from the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders to J.R. Ewing – provide personality to any study of economics or cultural imagery.

Keeping these factors in mind, the dominant storyline of Texas history since 1945 is the rise of modern conservatism and the birth of two-party politics.  In the years after World War II, particularly beginning in the 1960s, the once-invisible and powerless Texas Republican Party transformed itself into the state’s undisputed home for conservatism.  Along the way, the Texas GOP also became the state’s dominant political party – so dominant, in fact, that some contemporary observers have questioned whether Texas isn’t, once again, a one-party state.

I don’t envy educators who have to navigate this terrain within the system of public education in Texas.  The roots of a political culture concerned with the testing of schoolchildren and the textbooks that guide classroom instruction can easily be found in the contested history of our recent past.  In other words, to study recent Texas history is to engage students in a conversation that continues to rage, in various ways, through contemporary political campaigns and controversial debates on the floor of the Texas Legislature.

That said, there are also advantages to teaching recent Texas history.  One of the most difficult tasks any history teacher faces is the problem of relevance.  A student might ask, “Why does this matter?” or “What does this have to do with the world I’m living in today?”  It’s possible to draw relevant connections between modern society and almost any historical period, but it’s much easier when those periods, events, and personalities shaped the lives of a student’s parent.  Recent Texas history is a remembered past for most of our schoolchildren’s parents.  I often encourage my students to talk with their parents about what they’re learning in my class.  Such conversations may open the door to a deeper interest in history.  These conversations might also help students see connections between recent history and current events.

Cover of Cowboy Conservatism by Sean CunninghamIn my opinion, no period of Texas history is as full of intrigue and excitement as the period since the end of World War II.  Since 1945, Texas has changed demographically, socially, culturally, economically, spatially, and politically – and not in small ways, but in groundbreaking and unpredictable ways.  I am always excited to teach this period of history.  I never run out of things to discuss and my students tend to have a much easier time drawing connections between what they are studying and their own lives.  I strive for objectivity, acknowledge that different people often see the same issue or event in different ways, and encourage my students to come to their own conclusions whenever possible.  At the same time, I don’t shy away from controversies and tough questions … and I hope my students respect me for that.  Hopefully, teachers across Texas feel the same way.

Featured Lesson

TCEE LogoAs you plan your instruction on the Texas economy after World War II, consider searching the 128 lesson plans available on TeachingTexas.org. There you will find two lesson plan series from the Texas Council on Economic Education. The first, "Building an Economy-The Texas Experience" is targeted toward use in 4th grade classrooms.  This series covers topics such as: Understanding the free enterprise system, colonization, scarcity, transportation, cotton, boomtowns, and the impact of technology. The second, "Texas Economics – Eras and Individuals" is targeted for use in 7th grade classrooms, and covers topics such as: cattle drives, cotton, boomtowns, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl.

Texas History News

Several opportunities for Texas history educators and students are available or are on the near horizon:

In honor of the Civil War sesquicentennial, TSHA proudly introduces its newest feature the Handbook of Civil War Texas. This useful Handbook feature contains over 800 entries, including many new articles, which show the role Texas played during the Civil War. For additional information visit TSHAonline.org or TeachingTexas.org.


The Foundation for Teaching Economics and the Texas Council on Economic Education will sponsor a conference, August 1-4, 2011, titled The Environment and the Economy at the St. Anthony’s Hotel in San Antonio, and will focus on environmental economic issues and help teachers relate those issues to their students. See TeachingTexas.org for more information.

TeachingTexas.org welcomes our newest partner, the Fondren Library at Rice University. Through Rice University’s Center for Digital Scholarship, they will be adding online primary and secondary sources for use in the classroom. For additional information about the Fondren Library visit the partners page at TeachingTexas.org.   

The Star of the Republic Museum presents Communication on the Frontier: Getting a Message from Here to There in the Texas Republic on July 9th, 2011. This teacher workshop asks teachers and students to imagine life without the use of the technology of today and to understand the value and importance of newspapers and the postal system to the Republic of Texas. For additional information see TeachingTexas.org.

Law Focused Education will be offering a series of workshops titled, Social Studies TEKS update – LRE Style. The program will focus on new material which has been added to the TEKS. Classes will be held this summer in Houston, Mt. Pleasant, Richardson, El Paso, and San Antonio. See TeachingTexas.org for more information. 


 On June 11, 2011, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, will present Schools Out for Summer Educator Celebration.  Enjoy a free screening of Tornado Alley in the IMAX Theatre, a discussion session with a local meteorologist, and collect TEKS and STEM aligned lesson plans. See TeachingTexas.org for more information. 

Texas Insights is a publication of the Texas State Historical Association
in cooperation with the University of North Texas.

Texas State Historical Association
1155 Union Circle #311580
Denton, TX 76203-5017

Stephen Cure - Editor
Kim White- Associate Editor
JoNeita Kelly- Associate Editor  


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