Friday, February 03, 2006

UPDATE - Oklahoma History IS NOT history ...

The following post was written based upon a newspaper report and another Oklahoman's blog. As it turns out, the newspaper (which quoted a superintendent or so) was wrong, and thus led to much confusion, now being corrected. For the record:

Oklahoma history is still required of all high school students. Period.

We're not particularly peeved at anyone about this. Mistakes happen. As we used to say, doctors bury their mistakes; newspaper print theirs on Page 1. We're glad that reality turns out to be a bit happier than we thought.

But for reasons that involve some nostalgia and perhaps just to enter into the public record why we think eliminating the Oklahoma history requirement would be a bad thing, we're going to leave the post pretty much as we originally wrote it.

But as you read remember: Oklahoma history is still required.

The Original Post:

It's a good thing we got hooked up with the Blog Oklahoma people because it forces us to keep up just a bit with things that are going on around the state. (Some people subscribe to their local daily newspaper, but we've been boycotting the Tulsa daily disappointment for longer than some of its critics have been alive, and since they cut off their news to non-subscribers ...) But we digress.

Okiedoke points out that Oklahoma History is no longer required for high school graduation for those planning on attending college! (Emphasis mine.)

If you are planning on gutting chickens, welding auto frames, flipping burgers or driving 18-wheelers, you still have to take Oklahoma history to get the sheepskin.

Is there any logic to that at all? (Well, no. As it turns out all students still have to take it.)

But if you aren't interested in logic, surely you want to know on which side of the Oklahoma History fence squats the Oklahomilist! Why, on the So-Let-It-Be-Written, So-Let-It-Be-Done side, ala any good educational Pharoah!

Oklahoma History is one of the highlights of our high school memories. The woman who taught it ruled with an iron, er, ruler, had high standards, great expectations, and saw to it that each and every one of us understood that Oklahoma History IS IMPORTANT. Perhaps the most important subject we would ever encounter in our mush-minded, snively lives. We memorized all 77 counties. We drew state maps of counties, cities, terrorities (as in the boundaries between Indian nations and land run opportunities; maps of rivers, mountains, lakes, roads, cattle trails, tourist attractions, rattlesnake hunts, Civil War battlefields and cemeteries. When we were tested we were often given blank maps and told to accurately fill in all of the above. There was topography to learn by clay modeling.

There were historical facts and figures, dates and personages. We knew the governors of the state from Charley Haskell to Dewey Bartlett, and were expected to know something about a good number of those in between, particularly the really colorful ones like Alfalfa Bill, and the guys who were impeached or otherwise "removed" from office. We knew the root causes of the Dust Bowl and the "Okie" out-migration, and we knew what steps were taken to reverse the course of history and bring people back to the state again.

Oh, she was a demanding, tyrannical, unrelenting and ruthless teacher, and we all professed intense dislike of her class and her methods. That is, we professed it out loud but inwardly we marveled at how much there was to know about our oddly shaped state in the heart of America, and most of us felt a growing sense of pride of actually knowing something about the place we called home. And before we knew it, we began to feel a grudging admiration for her. Unlike too many other of our instructors, she not only cared deeply about her subject, she cared enough to require us through discipline and involvement to wade on into it ourselves, and drink deeply.

Even today, at the occasional class reunion, when her name is mentioned a respectful hush will arise and someone - usually the guy who always hated school more than anyone and got grades just high enough to pass - will say, "You know, Edna Nicks was the best teacher I ever had." And everyone else nods and a chorus of "no sh--" and "you got that right" oozes forth, and then someone adds the inevitable:

"But it sure was a pain in the ass!"

And we laugh, but it's the laughter of those who are glad that someone first cared enough about Oklahoma - and about us - to require us to take the course in the first place, and someone else was tough enough to make us really learn about our state, so much so that even today friends confide that when they cross that border coming "back home" they feel an overwhelming, teary-eyed Okie pride. Some of us even sing the state song on such occasions.

"You're doin' fine, Oklahoma, Oklahoma OK ..."

It would be a damn shame, and we're sure that Will Rogers would be frowning from upon high if he knew about it, to deny the same opportunity to present and future generations of high school students. If the problem is that high schools are assigning Oklahoma history to teachers who don't know the subject matter, or don't care, as one educator has guessed, is the answer to get rid of the subject matter? Where is the end result of that logic?

We are definitely not OK with this.


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