Thursday, February 19, 2009

Awareness of Kansas History and In-stateTourism: Personal Observations on the Relationship

I begin in Texas. Yes, that Texas - the big, bawdy, braggadocios former Republica de Tejas. Certainly not my favorite travel destination, but occasional visits to family have allowed me to see some of the sites and sights.

On each visit made to historic and scenic places in Texas, I have observed a phenomenon I have rarely if ever seen in my home state - numerous in-state families on pilgrimages to sites they have learned about in school. Everybody - grandparents, parents, and children alike - seems to know a great deal about Texas history. Casual eavesdropping proves that. I know state history is widely and seriously taught in the schools. Priority-wise, I'm certain it's a notch below football, cheerleading, and marching band, but it rates high nonetheless. Whatever the case, they know about Texas, it's part of the state pride thing they have going.

Even setting aside the state pride issue, wouldn't it be nice to visit Lecompton or Osawatomie and and be surrounded by parents and children talking about Bleeding Kansas? Or to Council Grove and Fort Larned to learn more about the Santa Fe Trail? How about the Indian museum at Highland or the pueblo ruins at Scott County Lake State Park to observe artifacts left by our earliest settlers? Amelia Earhart's house or Wichita's Aviation Museum to learn more about the state's role in aviation? Getting a glimpse of Black History at Nicodemus or Quindaro? Anybody who has traveled the state extensively or has read much Kansas history knows the list can go on and on. True, none of these places hold quite the glamorous international appeal of the Alamo, with its famous slogan and numerous movies. But beyond that, we certainly don't take a back seat to Texas or any of our surrounding neighbors when it comes to significant historical events and colorful and important citizens.

We just don't know much about these people and places. We are I believe, as a whole, pretty ignorant.

Is there a way to undo this status? Sorry folks, I just don't have many answers to that question. I'm hoping my comments will catch the attention and imagination of those with more creative minds than I. I do know, as a former teacher and a member of a family of educators, that our school systems are absolutely overwhelmed already. Adding to the suffocating demands of our under-financed schools is not going to happen. Although most districts include some KansasEd in their elementary school curriculum, I believe that few teachers have much interest and/or training in the subject so as to create much interest in the subject, and they have many far more pressing objectives - like those required achievement tests.

(Side note - I also have to keep reminding myself there has been an additional half century of US history take place since I was in school, and the teachers then couldn't adequately cover the entire US story.)

I would encourage us to seek creative ways to teach our students and their families about our state, its multi-hued peoples and how we came to be who we are through bloodshed and toil, how Kansans have significantly impacted the country and the world, and to understand with pride our identities as Kansans. Perhaps some education can take place through library programs or summer recreation programs. Those of us who are parents and grandparents that are concerned can do more in our homes. Anybody else have any ideas?

And maybe then, we might just once in awhile see our families enjoying a few days of their spring break in Abilene instead of Orlando or South Padre. I can dream, can't I?

Franklin B. Thompson
Kansas Explorer 3128

1 comment:

Milt said...

One way to capture local histories is by building websites and blogs such as yours devoted to sharing the past.
See these related websites: and and for starters...