Texas Insights - March 2011

Volume I, Issue 4

What’s New?

Logo for 175th Anniversary of Texas RevolutionCap off your 175th Anniversary of Texas Independence experiences with a choice of San Jacinto related activities. Witness the excitement at the San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment.  The Festival is a full day of music, entertainment, food, games and fun set amidst living history.  The Battle Reenactment, the most popular event of the day, dramatizes the decisive battle where General Sam Houston led his Texian soldiers to victory over the Mexican Army. See TeachingTexas.org for more details.

The annual Battle of San Jacinto Symposium is the premier academic event for the Friends of the San Jacinto Battleground. The objective of the Symposium is to provide a forum for promoting public awareness and scholarship relating to the Mexican colonial era in Texas (1821-1835), the Texas Revolution (1835-1836), the battle of San Jacinto (1836), and the Republic of Texas (1836-1845). These pivotal years, the "creation story of modern Texas," mark the transition from Spanish and Mexican sovereignty to independent Texas and annexation to the United States. Ten scholarships exist for 4th or 7th grade teachers to attend the symposium, see TeachingTexas.org for more details.

New Texas Almanac Web Site

In February, the Texas Almanac launched its newly redesigned web site which includes significant new material. The new site includes enhanced county information, an improved searchable towns database, an archive of back issues dating to 1857, and a variety of other items. The site also includes a FREE Teacher's Guide to help educators make use of quality reference material in the almanac. See TeachingTexas.org for details.


New Texas General Land Office Web Site

The Texas General Land Office launched its newly redesigned web site which provides easier access to their archival collections, a growing collection of lesson plans, and multi-media from their staff development opportunities. The lesson plans are produced by a classroom educator and are based on the collections of the Land Office. Information on the Texas Travels Essay Contest is also on the site, the deadline of which is March 4, 2011. 

Featured Institution

Texas State Library and Archives Commission offers resources for educators and students Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Internet access to powerful TexShare databases and Texas Heritage Online resources are made available to educators, students, and home-schoolers by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. These tools in the form of databases offer everything from homework help and lesson plans to dictionaries and encyclopedias, and even interactive games.

Now that computers have become indispensable resources for research, access to reliable online information is vital to teaching and learning. The K-12 databases program provides access to a broad range of age appropriate, authoritative and relevant materials from Britannica Digital Learning and EBSCO Publishing. Provided by schools and public libraries, charter, home-schooled and public school students and educators may access these databases round-the-clock from any computer. Elementary and secondary resources such as articles, atlases, biographies, interactive activities, maps and flags, math games, timelines, state reports and video clips are available. Resources for educators are updated regularly to keep them current.

Texas Heritage Online logoTexas Heritage Online, www.TexasHeritageOnline.org, offers access a variety of materials to use in the classroom – from historic photos to rare documents and oral histories, all with accurate and relevant descriptions created by the librarians, archivists, and museum curators who work with the collections. This free program is useful for social studies projects, lesson plans, games and fun activities related to Texas history.

TexShare logoThrough TexShare, the commission is able to negotiate licenses to databases in bulk and pass the savings on to every school, academic, special and accredited public library in the state; home-schoolers may gain access through their public libraries. These specialized databases offer accurate, reliable information not available through regular search engines, and are tailored to provide homework help, health and business information, biography and genealogy research, literature and archival information of all sorts.

Some of the finest in-depth information resources available are just a few clicks away. From your desktop or notebook computers, trendy tablets or smart phones, libraries have different ways to access these resources, be sure to ask your school or public librarian how.

For more information, go to www.tsl.state.tx.us. To start your research, you can also call the TSLAC reference desk at (512) 463-5455 or e-mail your question to reference.desk@tsl.state.tx.us.

Historian's Corner

Time for a Renewed Interest in the New Deal Era
By Keith J. Volanto
Professor of History
Collin College

LDr. Keith Volantoook closely and you will see the New Deal all around Texas today.  From legislation designed to protect our laborers, guarantee our bank deposits, provide retirement stability through the Social Security system, and regulate our stock markets to lasting work projects such as state parks, San Antonio’s Riverwalk, and the San Jacinto Monument, we see the enduring legacy of the New Deal in the Lone Star State.  Yet, study of the period beyond the traditional focus on noteworthy Depression Era politicians continues to lag. 

What explains the fact that such a potentially rich area has received relatively little attention by Texas historians and the general public?   Two contributing factors often come to mind when I ponder this question.  First, compared to other more popular areas of Texas history, the Great Depression can be rather “depressing” and unexciting.  In spite of its tremendous importance to the state’s history, for many scholars and popular audiences alike, the Great Depression and New Deal Era does not compare to recounting the epic fight of Texas rebels against Santa Anna, the heroic Civil War exploits performed by gallant Texas soldiers, and the tenacity of the Texas Rangers confronting the Comanche “menace.”  Second, despite the mounds of evidence one could produce to show that the vast majority of Texans at the time approved and willingly accepted various forms of New Deal aid, the state does have a strong anti-government reputation.  Examining the efforts of the federal government to solve an economic crisis involving Texas simply does not have much appeal for many individuals who have been raised on a tradition that criticizes long lines at post offices (while ignoring even longer delays at a private doctor’s office) and celebrates free enterprise (but berates high gas prices). 

The recent economic downturn, however, has vast potential for historians to reach a wider community, and for teachers to make the 1930s seem more relevant and interesting to their students.  The very nickname often used for the current downslide—the “Great Recession”—harkens back to seventy-five years ago when so many Texans were directly affected by dire economic circumstances.  Parallels can be drawn between current government efforts to stimulate the economy and Franklin Roosevelt administration’s efforts (working with Congress and the state governments) to provide employment and business relief.  Comparisons can be made between the existing housing crisis and the situation facing homeowners during the 1930s which eventually led to the creation of the Home Owners Loan Corporation that aided many Texans.  For those interested in understanding the thinking of those advocating so-called bank “bailouts,” one could look back to the first time they were undertaken, which was at the very beginning of the New Deal.  The first bill that Roosevelt signed into law as president was the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 which Congress passed in only seven hours.  The legislation authorized many of the same stabilization efforts undertaken by President Bush and the Congress.  The merits of such actions can be discussed with students along with possible alternatives and their repercussions.

I have noticed in recent semesters that my students are much more interested in the 1930s than they were when I started teaching some fifteen years ago.  As with many historical topics, if students can find (or be shown) relevance of the material to their everyday lives, they will be more interested in the subject matter.  It is unfortunate that it has taken a major recession to get students to more greatly appreciate the study of the Great Depression Era, but let’s make this one way that we can turn the current situation into something positive.

Featured Lesson

As you plan your instruction from the Great Depression to the Civil Rights era , check out this issue’s featured lesson plan from the Library of Congress. Available on TeachingTexas.org, “Out of the Dust” will give students a glimpse of Dust Bowl history through the eyes of a child. Using Karen Hesse’s Newbery Award-winning Out of the Dust as an introduction to this aspect of the Great Depression, students have the opportunity to identify with the personal experiences of youth in the 1930s.  Though the pre-selected images in this lesson plan are from Oklahoma, the collections they are from contain many similiar images from Texas that could easily be substituted.

Texas History News

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

On March 25-26, 2011, the Texas Historical Commission's Fort McKavett State Historic Site will host its annual West Texas Heritage Days. Throughout the day, activities will include cavalry, artillery and infantry action drills, Native American living history performances, Buffalo Soldiers, buffalo hunters, chuck wagon delectables, the Texas Camel Corps and other frontier skills demonstrations. See TeachingTexas.org for more information. 

  The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum presents Meditations on the “Massacution": What Goliad Means to the Story of American History a presentation by Jerry Drake, historian and U.S. State Department archivist, on Sunday, March 27 at 2:30 pm.  Explore what happened at Goliad, why, and how the events of March 27, 1836, continue to shape the story of Texas. See TeachingTexas.org for more information.
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum presents Standing on Sacred Ground by Robert L. Schaadt, former director-archivist of the Sam Houston Regional Library & Research Center, Liberty, Texas on Sunday, April 10 at 2:30 pm.  Robert L. Schaadt will share his observations on the Battle of San Jacinto in an engaging visual presentation. See TeachingTexas.org for more information.  

With so much of 20th Century Texas history tied to economic development, it is important to note that there are a number of activities provided by the Texas Council on Economic Education. They have created to guides for 4th and 7th grade courses, Building an Economy - The Texas Experience and Texas Economics - Eras and Individuals respectively. More information on using these guides is available through TeachingTexas.org.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's online exhibit A New Deal for Texas State Parks was recently added to TeachingTexas.org. The material presented and its associated activities are particularly useful in teaching the Depression Era's impact on Texas both at that time and today. See TeachingTexas.org for more information. 


As you prepare for the introduction of the new TEKS next semester, consider reviewing the resources posted by TSHA. The items posted there include formal documents from the Texas Education Agency as well as analysis by individuals who monitored the entire process of developing the new standards. 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

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