Sunday, July 4, 2010

Spotlight on Steve Cure and the Texas State Historical Association

Steve Cure
The Fourth of July is a proud day to celebrate everything that is great about our nation. Understanding our heritage as Texans and as Americans is vitally important for each of us on Independence Day. Those who educate our young people to appreciate our history deserve special notice on a day such as this. Steve Cure, the Director of the Educational Services Division of the Texas State Historical Association, is always found in the vanguard of such efforts, each and every day of the year. He and his staff are vitally concerned everyday with educating the young people of Texas about our heritage.

On the Road
It is therefore most fitting that this July 4th finds Steve Cure and T.S.H.A. staffer Kate O’Donnell (the association’s K-12 Program Coordinator) returning from Washington, D.C. as chaperones for a group of fifty young people, having just completed a two week historical tour of the eastern half of United States by charter bus. The theme of the excursion is "Old Stories New Voices 2010." During this trip, which was conducted in partnership with the Colorado Historical Society, Cure and O’Donnell, along with their Colorado colleagues, took their student participants on an extensive tour of Civil War battle sites from New Mexico to Pennsylvania, a trip that a number of people have followed daily in cyberspace by means of its blog site and on its facebook page. There is also a flickr site. This trip will undoubtedly provide a life-time of memories for the young people involved, some of whom might themselves be making future history during the coming decades of their adulthood, perhaps to be celebrated in turn on some Fourth of July to come.

Cure and his staff, however, by no means limit their educational activities to sponsoring once-in-a-lifetime historical trips for young people. Each year in its ongoing programs, the Educational Services Division of the Texas State Historical Association directly touches the lives of tens of thousands of young Texans living in every corner of the state. One its most successful programs is the annual Texas History Day, which constitutes the Lone Star State’s involvement in National History Day. The T.S.H.A. sponsors the Texas competition, which each year involves almost 50,0000 young Texans statewide. As students move up through local and regional history competitions of this program, over 1,000 of them eventually advance as participants to the state-level History Day contest held each May in Austin, with students winners there moving up to represent Texas at the National History Day each year in Washington, D.C. Over the years, Texas students have garnered many national awards and scholarships and are often recognized as top competitors. There are today hundreds of thousands of younger Texans from all levels of Texas History Day competitions who are alumni of this outstanding T.S.H.A. program.

Steve Cure and his staff also oversee the Junior Historians program. This is an extracurricular program on school campuses across the state for students in grades from four through twelve. Guided by school-approved teacher/sponsors, student members participate in chapter activities that enable them to discover and research history, both in the classroom and in the community. Cure and his staff publish a history journal especially for its members, “The Texas Historian.” Legendary Texas historian Walter P. Webb founded the Junior Historians way back in 1939 because he wanted students to get involved in the actual "doing of history." This unique organization has been active every year since then in numerous chapters across Texas.

The Junior Historian organization has a very special personal meaning for me because I was a member during my school days in San Antonio over fifty years ago. A memorable highlight of that time was a personal visit Dr. Webb (above left) made in the late 1950s to my chapter at Cambridge Elementary School, a day I still recall vividly. My involvement as a Junior Historian, seen from the retrospect of my adult years, was absolutely a major motivation for my long-standing interest in Texas history, an endeavor that has been my life’s occupation. I am sure that phalanxes of Texans from all walks of life and of all ages can join me in observing that being a Junior Historian awakened in them a permanent, lifetime appreciation for Texas history no matter what course they have since followed.

The Walter P. Webb Society, aptly named, is a collegiate level program across the state also operated by Cure and his educational staff. It actively promotes an appreciation for Texas history at dozens of colleges and universities, in the process holding two annual meetings each year in the fall and spring semesters respectively. College students come together at the Webb Society conferences to read papers that result from their own undergraduate research activities. As well, the Webb Society publishes the “Touchstone,” cosponsored by Lee College, which is one of this nation’s best and most lively all-student authored historical journals.

The Educational Services of the T.S.H.A. is also annually involved in various activities designed to assist teachers of Texas history across the state. History Awareness Workshops in years past have provided continuing educational activities for teachers. Steve Cure also regularly attends various history teacher conferences sponsored by the Texas State Teachers Association, where he presents workshops for teachers and speaks on Texas history. He routinely organizes Texas historians to join him in these activities, as I have had the pleasure of doing myself. His division also maintains on the T.S.H.A. website an array of lesson plans for teachers, each of which is keyed to the relevant TEKS on the subject, along with a Texas history quiz for classroom use.

The great southern writer Robert Penn Warren once observed: “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.” That is exactly what motivates Steve Cure and the Educational Services of Division of the Texas State Historical Association every day of the year. Our heritage as a state and a nation is priceless. So too is what Steve Cure and his associates at the T.S.H.A. do in order to advance that heritage. For me, knowing of their fine efforts helps to make any Fourth of July a very special day indeed.

Click Here for the T.S.H.A. Educational Services Web Page.