'Freedom and Equality' Theme of Teaching American History Institute

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    Baylor history professor Julie Sweet dresses the part as she leads sessions on life in Colonial America.
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    Fellows in the Teaching American History 2004 Summer Institute hear a lecture at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.
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    (Left) Bill Barker of Colonial Williamsburg as "Thomas Jefferson" and (right) Mark Greenough of Living History Associates as "Patrick Henry" with Dr. J. Wesley Null, director of Baylor's Teaching American History project.
May 23, 2006

by Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, (254) 710-6275

History and social studies teachers from 18 Central Texas school districts will immerse themselves in American history next month at Baylor University, with their students the beneficiaries of the new and engaging ways to teach traditional American history.

With an over-arching theme of "Freedom and Equality," Baylor will host 37 teachers selected for the intensive "Teaching American History" Summer Institute on June 5-23 at the Mayborn Museum Complex.

This year's event also includes a free public lecture by noted U.S. philosopher and author, Jacob Needleman, who will speak on "The American Soul: In Search of the Spiritual Meaning of America" from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 13, in the SBC Theater at the Mayborn Museum. A professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University, Needleman is the author of several books, including "The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders," now in its fourth printing.

The TAH institute will provide three weeks of high-quality professional development for teachers from Axtell, Belton, China Spring, Connally, Coolidge, Fairfield, Hamilton, Kopperl, Lorena, Marlin, Mart, Midway, Moody, Riesel, Temple, Valley Mills, Waco and Whitney school districts. (See the full list of 2006 Fellows here.) Since the first "Teaching American History" Summer Institute in 2004, the program has impacted more than 20,000 local students through their increased knowledge and achievement in American history.

This year's institute will include lectures and workshops led by Baylor faculty and prominent historians on topics such as "Living Life in Colonial Times," "The Texas Revolution," "The Great Awakenings and American Religion," "The Purpose of American Myth," "Teaching American Indian History," "The Women's Movement in the Late 20th Century," teaching history through literature, fiction, magazines and biography, and much more. The teachers also will spend several days visiting the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, as well as museums in Houston and San Antonio.

The institute is one of several initiatives included in "Crossroads in American History," a three-year project of Baylor's School of Education, department of history and Region 12 Education Service Center. Funded by a nearly $1 million grant awarded in 2003 by the U.S. Department of Education, the project supports collaborations between school districts and institutions to ensure that teachers develop the knowledge, skills and commitments necessary to teach traditional American history in exciting new ways.

"Our Teaching American History grant in general and this institute in particular represent Baylor's continued commitment to serving the teachers and children in our local community," said Dr. Wesley Null, associate professor in the School of Education and the Honors College and TAH project director. "Teachers of history and social studies are the public servants who have the most direct link to providing civic curriculum to the young people in our communities. That means that working with, encouraging and respecting this group of teachers is a very important task."

As it has in the past, the TAH institute also will have Needleman - one of its top presenters - available for a free public lecture on June 13 at the Mayborn.

In its review of Needleman's book, "The American Soul," Publishers Weekly wrote, "Finding a deep resonance between the founding principles of this country and the ancient spiritual quest for an inner liberation, Needleman proceeds to examine and 'remythologize' the founders and some of their great deeds...Franklin's courageous experimentation, Washington's restraint retiring from the army and later from the presidency rather than exploiting his matchless popularity and political power, Jefferson's brilliant articulation of the value of community, and the sheer gravity and awareness in Lincoln's face. While Needleman clearly finds much to love about America, he balances our light with our darkness, our genuine good will and spirituality with our great crimes of slavery and the genocidal abuse of the American Indian."

Needleman's other books include "The Wisdom of Love," "Time and the Soul," "The Heart of Philosophy," "Lost Christianity" and "Money and the Meaning of Life."

In addition to his teaching and writing, Needleman serves as a consultant in the fields of psychology, education, medical ethics, philanthropy and business, and has been featured on Bill Moyers' acclaimed PBS series "A World of Ideas."

For more information, contact Null at (254) 710-6120 or Wesley_Null@baylor.edu. For more information about the Teaching American History grant, as well as a complete list of the 2006 Fellows, visit http://www.baylor.edu/soe/crossroads.

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