By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Cooke County —
A statewide education project touched into Gainesville on Thursday, sending a message that localizing history curriculum is the best way to get students more interested in the past and more inclined to learn from it.
Marvin Gorley of Texas A&M-Commerce presented a historical storyboard of obscure local trivia during a special exhibit at Morton Museum of Cooke County, available for viewing through the afternoon.
“My whole theory is that there’s a lot of local history being forgotten, so I want to let people know just what they’re missing on,” Gorley said Thursday.
His effort will also include visits to Lamar and Smith counties — presenting trivia storyboards specific to those areas — and is part of a county-by-county initiative designed to change the terms of public school history curriculum in the coming years.
Online surveys are also key components in the initiative, Gorley said. And by 2020, the Texas State Board of Education may receive enough positive input to provide county history courses alongside the world, national and state history subjects available today.
“It’s amazing what people don’t know about life in Cooke County,” said Sylvia Deaver, who visited Thursday’s exhibit. “A lot’s going on in Cooke County that they don’t even know about. And I’d be really grateful if kids got a higher dose of local history, but I know they have requirements. And they teach Texas and national history and it takes all this time, and you still don’t get through all of it.”
The key to helping students want to learn more about human history in broader contexts, Gorley explained, is getting them to first appreciate what has happened in their own backyards.
“Students don’t really like history that much, and I didn’t when I was in school,” he said. “But if it’s about your home and things you’re familiar with, your relatives, your friends and neighbors, then it’s going to engage them a little bit more and spark their interest.”
Gorley admitted that since Texas contains more than 250 counties, the development of an all-inclusive county history course would be impossible. But he said an expansion of current history curriculum in the state would be possible, and inspiring students to hunt down their own local facts might be the most useful element to come from any curriculum change.
“There’s no universal book you can get to teach everybody by,” he said. “So my idea is that you don’t teach specific history; you teach them how to research history. So that, in the classroom, they learn how to go to the library and they learn how to get online and how to go to city councils and look at meeting minutes.
“And not only will they reap the benefits of learning history, they reap the benefits of learning research and of getting to know city officials and of getting involved,” Gorley added. “There are all sorts of benefits possible by teaching local history.”
For more information about the curriculum survey, visit the website www.surveymonkey.com/s/localhistoryeducation.