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[Detail] Wayne Perry playing fiddle, Crowley, Louisiana.

Historical Issue Analysis and Decision-Making

Students can use this collection to study two historical issues with continuing relevance today. First, they can better understand the passions surrounding the issue of immigration and the possible consequences of the way in which immigration and border culture are regulated. The early twentieth century, including the decade just prior to the Lomax's expedition saw forced and violent removal and even killing of Mexican immigrants. For a picture of the violence and poverty of border culture, students can read notes about the street singer, Jose Saurez, his border ballads, and other songs recorded in Brownsville, Texas, in section 6 of the fieldnotes. Provide students with a contemporary account of border issues from a newspaper and have them consider how and why border issues and culture have and have not changed. What are the problems and potential solutions of this issue? For more information about the culture and controversies surrounding the Mexican border, including a history of the Mexican Revolution, refer to The South Texas Border, 1900-1930.

Second, students may also use this collection to study the homogenization of culture, as outlined in the U.S. History section. Have students consider the following citation and questions:

The Texas Folklore Society's founding members shared with Lomax a sense that their state's rich folklore needed to be documented and preserved for the analysis of later scholars. Nascent technology such as the radio and the gramophone, it was feared, would end the age-old tradition of transmitting music and lore directly from one person to the next . . . Ironically, (Lomax) relied on the latest technological advances to document the very oral tradition he feared technology would destroy.

From "Southern Mosaic" in the Library of Congress's online "Information Bulletin".

  • Can a technological form of documentation accurately preserve an art form that is based on live, person-to-person transmission?
  • Is folk music still authentic once it's been recorded, or does it become something else once it can be mass-produced, distributed, and heard outside of its cultural and historical context?
  • Have the radio and other technologies ended the tradition of "transmitting music and lore directly from one person to the next?" If so, what have we lost?
  • What other art forms and lifestyles have been squelched by the growth of mass culture?
  • Has a mass culture taken over in America, or are their elements of culture that defy homogenization?
  • Are there elements of culture today that are threatened by mass culture and merit preservation and documentation? How might you go about doing this?
  • Is a mass culture necessarily a bad thing? What are its costs and benefits?
  • With increasingly global technologies and economies and the appearance of McDonald's and Disney theme parks throughout the world, are we headed toward a global mass culture? Or will we choose to preserve cultural differences? How can this be done?

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