Celebrating freedom by assisting Texas teachers

Published 7:31 am Saturday, September 17, 2016

Editorial by Frank Stevenson


Every day, Texas teachers strive to prepare our children to excel in advanced learning or trades, guide them to think critically about this world, and, most importantly, equip them to be citizens. Texas lawyers are helping.


Celebrate Freedom Week is the week of September 17, and, as always, includes the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. It helps schools focus attention on this country’s origins, and thereby encourage students to understand and celebrate their identity as Americans.


The State Bar’s Law-Related Education Department and its subsidiary, Law Focused Education, Inc., provide an astonishing sweep of resources to improve the history and civics education of Texas students. These programs have produced hundreds of highly polished, instructive, age-appropriate videos, games, and lesson plans, all available free to Texas schools.


LRE also conducts courses across our state to equip teachers with the latest techniques and tools. Last year, LRE provided 125 teacher training sessions, educating 7,300 participants. Those LRE-trained teachers then taught roughly 271,000 students last year alone. Over its 33-year history, LRE has enriched the lives of literally millions of young Texans.


These educational and activity-oriented LRE programs include, “I was the First. Vote for Me!,” which brings to life important firsts in U.S. and Texas history, and “Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay!,” which focuses on landmark court decisions covered by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) assessment tests.


LRE debuted another project just in time for Celebrate Freedom Week – “Liam  Learns… Seven Principles of the Constitution” – designed for fifth through 12th grades, which also addresses TEKS requirements.

Texas lawyers gratefully help Texas teachers meet their educational goals. And I regularly hear from Texas teachers how much they appreciate that help.


But as important as TEKS assistance is, the Bar is actually helping to do much more.


All Americans – but especially lawyers – need to ensure an ample supply of teachers and voters, legislators and judges, law students and jurors, police officers and attorneys skilled in the craft of citizenship to explain and pass, write and interpret, learn and apply, enforce and advance our laws. Texas lawyers help do that.


Further, knowledge of history is essential to the sound functioning of our government. It’s a commonplace that you can only know where you’re going by knowing where you’ve been. Thus, history is to our nation what a rudder is to a ship. Set in the stern, a rudder cannot guide a vessel from where it is going – only from where it has been; so our nation may steer confidently toward its future only by sighting from its past.


Finally, history plays antidote to our tendency to fawn over fame and celebrity by disclosing how often great events lack the authorship of any great women and men, but are instead the handiwork of everyday Americans. The first musket discharged at Concord – Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “shot heard round the world” – utterly altered the course of humankind. And no one knows who fired it.


These programs supported by the State Bar of Texas invite our students to understand themselves as partakers of something vastly longer than just now and vastly larger than just themselves. Specifically, to know themselves as the uniquely blessed citizens of a nation of laws unlike any that came before or after – in short, as Americans.


This imperative to impart a national identity to succeeding generations may be the greatest obligation we have to this Republic. And Texas lawyers are honored to help Texas teachers ensure that obligation is met.


Frank Stevenson, a partner in Locke Lord in Dallas, is the 2016-2017 president of the State Bar of Texas, an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system.