Sunday, May 4, 2014

Remember the......What Was That Again?


Yesterday I led one of what has become a bi-annual walking tour of the battlefield at San Jacinto State Park in La Porte, Texas.  Each semester (fall and spring) I do it as part of my course, though attendance is not required as it is on a Saturday.  This time around I had my largest group yet, over 60 people.  The majority of them were students and the rest were family members and also some of the other faculty from one of the colleges where I teach.  It give my students the chance to interact with me in a non-traditional educational environment.  They get to meet my wife and sometimes my son when he decides to grace us with his presence.  Over the years I've met the wives, girlfriends, husbands, boyfriends, parents, and children of my students through doing these tours.  We usually have a good time.  Even when it rains.

(At the site of Santa Anna's tent)

I've always thought that it was important for my students to see me as a person first and a professor second. I know that more than a few colleagues would disagree with me.  In fact, a few years back I was standing in the hallway talking to a couple of former students of mine about the weekend's NFL scores.  I don't know who it was, but a faculty member complained on me and said that it was "not professional" to discuss anything other than class with my students.  I never found out who the person was and that is probably a good thing.  I'm sorry, but in my view, if my students are not comfortable talking about the Saint's lack of defense (which is truly historic), then they won't feel comfortable talking to me about the class.  Lines of communication don't open by themselves.

(My wife.....not one of my students!)

What amuses me is how many people grow up in the shadow of the San Jacinto Monument, which is larger than the Washington Monument, and never go there to visit.  It is also the home of the Battleship Texas which just turned 100 and is the only surviving dreadnought class battleship to serve in both World Wars.  Unfortunately, the State of Texas spends less money on the state park system than Iran does and I don't even know if Iran has states, much less state parks.  It is a travesty but it has been that way for a long time.  I think everyone in Texas probably knows about the Alamo.  Independence was won at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 and perhaps that makes it a wee bit more important than the Alamo!

My students learn far more by spending two hours with me wandering over the battlefield than they do listening to me talk about it in a classroom.  History is best learned by visiting the sights themselves.  Pictures don't always do it justice.  You can't fully appreciate a battle unless you've had a chance to put eyes on the terrain and see it the way the commanders saw it.  If I were an independently wealthy adjunct professor (and those terms are mutually exclusive by the way), I would take my students around the country and visit as many battlefields as I could.  We'd bounce from battlefield to historic site to battlefield again across the country in 1301 and then the world in 1302.  I'm sure my classes would be more popular then than they are now.  And they are already pretty popular.  

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian with sore legs.

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