By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
A visiting historian hopes to help alter future school curriculum in Texas through an upcoming project coordinated with Morton Museum of Cooke County.
Visiting historian and Texas A&M Commerce graduate student Marvin Gorley will present Cooke County items such as vintage signage and historical storyboards between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday at the museum at 210 S. Dixon St. in Gainesville.
Gorley’s free presentation is part of a statewide campaign to include county history in Texas school curriculum — a hoped-for addition to the world, state and American history classes all now offered under the heading of “social studies.”
“There are a lot of local facts getting forgotten because there are no efforts to preserve them,” Gorley said Monday.
Museum director Jayleane Smith, hosting Thursday’s event, said the project belongs to the “paramount” objective of bringing county history into Texas schools.
“This curriculum will provide the student knowledge about their ancestors and the pioneers who made our county what it is today,” she said. “For those students who were not born in the county, it will give them a true understanding of our county history and how it is relevant in their lives.
“We have a colorful history,” she added. “And our roots run strong and deep.”
Gorley said his Gainesville visit is part of a three-county schedule that includes Lamar and Smith counties and will include promotion of a survey now available online. As many as 30 counties, he added, have now been influenced by the campaign. With enough feedback, the project may merit consideration by the Texas State Board of Education.
“It’s getting pretty widespread so far,” he said. The more surveys filled out and the more across Texas they are, the more valid the presentation will be.”
But Gorley admitted the project is long-term; the state board isn’t slated to reconsider school curriculum plans until 2020.
“There are a lot of steps that have to be taken, and it’s kind of a pie-in-the-sky goal,” he said. “But hopefully, even before we get to that point, we’re going to get as many teachers to teach as much local history and county history as possible.”
Gorley cited one Cooke County “tidbit” interesting to him and now possibly widely forgotten: the 1911 journey of the Vin Fiz Flyer, an early-aircraft era biplane that briefly landed in Gainesville on its way to making any plane’s first flight across the United States.
The plane was notable, he said, for being an early example of product placement since the plane coasted with advertisements for “Vin Fiz” orange soda painted on its body.
“That seems pretty commonplace now, but early on, that was an oddity,” he said.
Gorley added that the “Vin Fiz” story appears to be one of many local facts on their way to being forgotten.
“There are all these tidbits that are important about Gainesville that have not been highlighted,” he said.
For more information about the curriculum survey, visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/localhistoryeducation.