Flags of Our Fathers — movie released October 20

October 16, 2006

Clint Eastwood’s movie based on James Brady’s book about his father and World War II, Flags of Our Fathers, will be released on October 20. This blog’s post on photographer Joe Rosenthal’s death a few weeks ago has been one of the most sought after, searched-for and read posts.

This movie release provides excellent opportunities for history teachers. Will we be able to take full advantage?

Here’s the website for the movie.

Finding folk music for lesson plans

October 16, 2006

Avoiding Aristotle’s warning that we shouldn’t introduce children to “music,” many teachers like to add a little music to a lesson plan from time to time. Especially useful is music that pertains directly to the stuff in the lesson plan.

If you are stumped on how to find such music as I am (and remember, I teach in Texas!), you may find this index of folk music to be quite useful, The Folk Music Index, by Jane Keefer in Oregon.

As useful as that index is, it is limited to material in Ms. Keefer’s personal collection. Fortunately, her site lists links to other folk music indices: Folk Music Indexes, Print and Electronic Sources. That index includes links to such important indices as Alan Lomax’s work at the Alan Lomax Database.

Just a pause to rant: Texas music suffers from profound neglect in Texas history courses in elementary and secondary schools. Oh, there are recordings available for teachers to use in classrooms, including a few old tunes from Native American tribes, some cowboy songs, and a few other Texas-related songs. Nothing for the classroom begins to touch the full range of Texas music students should be aware of, and take pride in.

Texas music would be a good project for a music major, or a copyright specialist, rather than a historian, perhaps. Or the subject would be a good one to make collaborators of lawyers, musicians and historians. Here are some of the great gaps in Texas music that I see, for social studies education:

  • There is not a good collection of good versions of the Texas state song, “Texas, Our Texas.” There is not a collection at all that I have found.
  • Texas blues as a genre is ignored; Robert Johnson’s recordings in Texas are not mentioned. The history of Dallas Deep Ellum section, with its rich connections to blues, is largely ignored.
  • Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys get mentioned, but not with the kind of explanation they deserve. Other Texas Swing bands are completely ignored. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin features recordings of Bob Wills tunes by Asleep at the Wheel, but no Bob Wills himself. (Asleep at the Wheel’s story is another that should be featured, in my opinion.)
  • Scott Joplin is rarely mentioned.
  • Conjunto and Tejano and other forms of music popular among Texans with Mexican heritage are largely ignored. Any artists of great note from Texas’ Hispanic cultures are ignored — where is Trini Lopez these days, anyway?
  • Spanish-language music is difficult to find other than current pop hits.
  • Texas’ influence on modern country music needs more focus. If a text mentions Willie Nelson, it’s rare. Charlie Pride? Does anybody remember 20 years ago?
  • Texas’ influence on rock and roll is ignored. I have yet to find any mention of Doug Sahm; Buddy Holly usually gets a sentence. Z. Z. Top, Steve Miller, Janis Joplin — good luck. Roy Orbison? New Bohemians? Lisa Loeb? Forget it.
  • The Austin music scene get mentioned, but little more. A student could pick up more history of Texas music in a 6th Street bar when Jerry Jeff Walker plays, than she could learn in all of the Texas history texts. (If we’re going to compete with the bars for students’ attention, we’d better do a good job . . .)
  • Texas rhythm and blues gets little mention.
  • Texas rap has no mention — not even Vanilla Ice or Paul Wall.
  • Jazz in Texas is ignored.
  • Classical music in Texas is vastly under-reported. Most texts make no mention of Ft. Worth’s Van Cliburn piano competition, for example — one of the premier events in piano.
  • Texas marching band music with its unique styles gets very little coverage. Considering the University of Texas’ Longhorn marching band, the band out of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets, Prairie View A&M’s annual competition with Grambling State (of Louisiana), and two or three dozen outstanding, world class marching bands in Texas high schools, you’d think there would be a mention somewhere in a book about Texas history.

If you have a good source of music for history courses, drop a line. If you have a good source of music for economics courses, phone.

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