Iowa 101 Covers Iowa's Frontier Roots

Oct 6, 2015

In Iowa, state-specific history is taught in fourth grade. For most Iowans, that's the last they'll learn about their state's past. Tom Morain, Director of Government Relations at Graceland University and former head of State Historical Society of Iowa, is working to change that. He's developed a curriculum, an online course he's dubbed Iowa 101, that anyone, anywhere in or out of state, can access and participate in.

"It's my passion to do public history. I love the challenge of taking good history and trying to find a format that reaches people that connects it with people. [...] One of the responses most Iowan historians get when they get to engage with the public is that there is a deep sense of pride in Iowa that is somewhat layered with our hesitancy to brag about being Iowans. If we were in Texas, it would be no problem whatsoever."

Morain isn't the only one passionate about Iowa education for the rest of us. Katy Swalwell is an assistant professor in the School of Education at Iowa State University. This past summer she engaged 200 people in an online course detailing Iowa's civil rights history. Originally conceived to help teachers better engage their classrooms, she attracted a large amount of community members interested in learning about Iowa's history for their own sake. She credits that, in part, to the deep connections history has to current events.

"For people that are really curious about learning about how history connects to today and continues to have reverberations through our lives today, it really does ask people to be willing to keep an open mind and sit with some nuance and sit with complexity. And I really trust that people like that--they like their brains hurting when they're learning about history."

In this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Swalwell and Morain about their courses. Elizabeth Dinschel, Education Specialist, National Archives and Records Administration, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, also joins the conversation.