Archive for Monday, January 15, 1990


January 15, 1990


When the Kansas Legislature decided last year that students should learn some Kansas history before graduating from high school, Paul Stuewe was one step ahead of the game: He's been teaching his Kansas Studies course at Lawrence High School for several years.

However, Stuewe and others realized that other schools might need some help in developing a course on Kansas history. Now Stuewe is playing a big role in providing that guidance by compiling a reader, "Kansas Revisited: Historical Images and Perspectives."

Stuewe recently completed his research for the reader through a grant from the Continuing Education Division of Kansas University. The reader is scheduled for publication in May so that schoolteachers across the state will have a chance to review the book before the 1990-91 school year. That's when school districts must begin meeting the mandate that students take nine weeks of Kansas history sometime between seventh and 12th grade.

Stuewe should have a good idea of what the state wants for the history classes because he is a member the Governor's Kansas History Task Force, which has developed guidelines for schools to use in developing their Kansas history courses.

STUEWE HOPES teachers will find his reader useful. He also hopes it will gain wide acceptance elsewhere.

"The book is designed for two audiences one being secondary school students, the other being the general public," Stuewe said. "And it may get just as much of a following in the general public as it does in the schools."

"I don't want people to think this is a high-school textbook," Stuewe said. "This is a reader, not a textbook. It's a book of readings about Kansas."

Barbara Watkins, coordinator of curriculum and projects at continuing education, said she also thinks the book will have a wide appeal. Hence, the book will be marketed not only among schools and teachers but among public libraries and Kansas bookstores, she said.

Stuewe said he found much of the material for his book in scholarly journals, which many people interested in Kansas history simply don't have time to review. The reader should make that information more accessible to the general public, he said.

STUEWE ALSO relied heavily on some area Kansas historians. Eleven of the contributing authors are KU professors.

"I wanted to canvass as much of the state geographically as I could, but I also wanted to utilize some of the people who are on the cutting edge of Kansas history," Stuewe said. "One of the difficulties of putting together a book like this is that you can't include everything. It's not what you're going to put in as much as what you're going to leave out that's hard to decide."

Stuewe said he tried to cover some topics that weren't usually addressed in textbooks on Kansas history, and the reader touches such issues as the role of blacks in Kansas and gives a sense of what life was like for German Lutheran women who served as house servants in Kansas City.

"Here you get more of a sense of what the people went through," he said. "You don't always get the sense of what it was like in the textbook."

STUEWE SAID he also wanted his readers to get a sense of what image Kansans had of their state at various times in the state's history.

"The image that people have had about themselves and about Kansas has changed over time," Stuewe said. "The image started to change around the turn of the century when things like being for prohibition were no longer fashionable, but Kansans were still for it. And we remained agricultural while the rest of the country industrialized."

Stuewe said those attitudes and events made Kansans feel that they were behind other parts of the country. Kansas was then hit by depression and drought, and that image stuck due in great part to "The Wizard of Oz" movie, Stuewe said.

One reading in the book, "Oz and Kansas Culture" by Thomas Fox Averill, touches on that theme.

"He talks about the dilemma Kansans face with being associated with "The Wizard of Oz." Do we try to ignore it and play it down? Sometimes in our history people have tried to capitalize on it," Stuewe said.

Stuewe said he began working on the reader last April but didn't really dig into the project until June when summer vacation started. Stuewe said he finished research on the book on Dec. 31 and now needs only to select illustrations for it. He said he would try to select pictures that many people had not seen before, including some contemporary photography.

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