San Diego State Aztecs

This post is part of the APUSH Gameday series.

San Diego State University “Leadership Starts Here”  San Diego State University (SDSU, San Diego State) is a public research university in San Diego, California, and is the largest and oldest higher education institution in San Diego County. Founded in 1897 as San Diego Normal School, it is the third-oldest university in the 23-member California State University.

After the athletic teams were established in 1921, media referred to the teams as “Staters” or “professors”. The school newspaper tried to encourage “Wampus Cats” during its coverage of the 1923-24 school year. In the fall of 1924, Athletic Director C.E. Peterson urged the students to select a nickname and the school newspaper, The Paper Lantern, invited suggestions. Over the next few issues, names such as Panthers, Balboans and Thoroughbreds were suggested and submitted to a committee of Dean Al Peterson, C.E. Peterson and a student. In 1925, student leaders chose the nickname “Aztecs” over such other suggestions as “Balboans”. They felt the terminology was more representative of a southwest image and the selection met with no dissent. In February of 1925, President Hardy gave his formal approval to the “Aztec” nickname and teams adopted that identity within a week.


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I work the San Diego State Aztecs into my course when I cover the following topics:

From Pangaea to Paradise – The Americas Before European Conquest [1491] Pre-Columbian indigenous populations were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness,  rather, a vastly more populous and sophisticated civilizations that actively shaped and influenced the land around them .

The Spanish Mission System – “A Wealth of Souls to Harvest”The Spanish clergy, particularly Jesuits and Franciscans, played a critical role in settling the Southwest using the mission system.Over the centuries, this became the most effective means of “civilizing” natives.

APUSH Gameday

This year I decided to work my favorite TV show into my Advanced Placement United States History course.  College Football Gameday goes on location Every week the crew from Gameday typically broadcasts from the campus of the team hosting a featured game being played that day and features news and analysis of the day’s upcoming games.

While on they were hosting from campus of James Madison University I thought I could have some fun weaving a college’s history (founding mascots, and notable alumni) into my curriculum.  So it began, I ordered a bunch of College Polo’s from using money I made selling resources on my TeachersPayTeachers site.  I will be posting info about the colleges I choose to incorporate into my course as we move through the semester.


Gilder Lehrman Study Guides

AP US History Exam Prep
Start building your Toolbox now!

Review the scope of US history with the Gilder-Lehrman  online AP US History Study Guide, which follows the AP US History course from 1692 to the present

Watch videos for detailed tips on how to answer the various question formats (multiple choice, short answer, document-based essay question, long essay) and get tips on how to think like a historian.

US History Mission Statement

Here is a fantastic mission statement for an Advanced Placement U.S. History course. These are the words of  award winning documentary film maker Ken Burns.  I first heard the following quote on a National Constitution Center podcast about Mr. Burn’s film Prohibition.

“I am in the business of history. It is the avocation I have chosen to practice my craft of film making. Over the many years of practicing, I have come to the realization that history is a not a fixed thing, a collection of precise dates, facts and events that add up to a quantifiable, certain, confidently known, truth. It is an inscrutable and mysterious and malleable thing. Each generation rediscovers and re-examines that part of its past that gives its present, and most important, its future new meaning and new possibilities.

I am interested in that mysterious power of history, and I am interested in its many varied voices. Not just the voices of the old top-down version of our past, which would try to convince us that American history is only the story of Great Men. And not just those pessimistic voices that have recently entered our studies, voices which seem to suggest that our history is merely a catalog of white crime. I am interested in listening to the voices of a true, honest, complicated past that is unafraid of controversy and tragedy, but equally drawn to those voices, those stories and moments, that suggest an abiding faith in the human spirit and particularly the unique role this remarkable and sometimes dysfunctional Republic seems to play in the positive progress of mankind. That, quite simply, has been my creed, my mantra, the lens through which I have tried to see our shared past, to understand its stories, for more than 30 years”.   Source Link


Additional U.S. History Resources
Prepare and Perform with History 360


Why History?

I plan on using the following post by Professor Jennifer Burns to get my students thinking about why we study History.

Professor Jennifer Burns 

As a history professor, I hope students love my classes so much they decide to declare a major or minor in the subject. Yet if I succeed, I know my students will hear the inevitable question: “History, huh. What are you gonna do with that?”

So I suggest three ways they might respond: a simple answer, a complicated answer and a philosophical answer.

The simple answer is that history majors have a proven track record of success in any number of fields, and make excellent lawyers, consultants, business owners, policy makers, corporate executives and so forth. To study history is to train the mind to assimilate information, recognize patterns and make judgments about what is most important.

Each lecture, I explain, I will throw a huge amount of information at my students: dates, faces, names of legislation, battles, books economic statistics, etc. Their job will be to sort through this overload and use it to construct meaningful arguments about what mattered most, and why. I will teach them to question their sources, so they are not blind consumers of dubious Internet wisdom. And I will test them on their ability to assess, evaluate and construct interpretations of the past.

All of these skills translate directly into professional competencies. Would you like to be a diplomat? I ask. If you get through the first Foreign Service exam—which will be full of questions about global history and geography—you will be placed in a room with a huge stack of reports, and will have a few hours to reduce these hundreds of pages to a concise several pages. If you’ve taken a history course, you will already have done this for the research paper and final exam. Do you want to go into business, be a consultant or an analyst? Again, you’re going to find yourself with a stack of reports, or an entire industry to research and a summary due. And you’ll be promoted based on the boss believing she or he can trust you to have selected out the most important information, overlooking nothing relevant, yet presenting it all in a pithy and readable format.

All the data are clear on this point: history majors earn comfortable salaries, with most closing the gap with professional majors by peak earning years. History majors are actually more likely get into medical school than science majors. And they emerge as leaders in their fields because they are comfortable with the big-picture thinking and long-term vision that the study of history cultivates.

Not sure what kind of job you want? This is where the more complicated answer comes in, for a history major is training for jobs that do not yet exist. The simple fact is that most Stanford students will end up crafting their own roles and responsibilities in the workplace, rather than fitting themselves in like cogs to a machine. To do this, they’ll need boldness, creativity and imagination. And they can foster those habits of mind and being by thinking deeply about change, continuity and the radical instability of the present moment.

Studying history underscores the way the future unfolds out of the past. It teaches students to sense possibilities where they can’t yet be seen, and in so doing makes it possible to chart a path into the unknown. Looking at history, you’ll understand how new industries emerge and will be able to craft a career path that intersects with the emerging economy of tomorrow.

History also teaches students to appreciate and navigate complexity and change. Studying the past helps students develop judgment, for it puts before them a panoply of human folly and achievement that can help guide them in unfamiliar terrain. Young people learn that the best laid plans often go awry; that human emotions can prove the driving force of history; that unintended consequences are the rule more than the exception; and that injustice is both real and terrible and can be changed by the actions of a dedicated few. All of this creates a supple intellect that can respond to new situations with ease, confidence, and creativity. And it is superb preparation for the customized careers students will craft out of an unknown future.

And then there is the philosophical answer to “why history?”: that historical knowledge is a good unto itself, and we don’t need to “do” anything with it, other than to use it to see the world in a different way, to appreciate its richness and variety. That is particularly true in courses on modern America, where we do a slow slide into the present. In the last few weeks of the course, I tell students, things will start looking more and more familiar. But they will also look different, because now they’ll know where everyday features of the present—from the vote to the personal computer—came from, and thus understand their true meaning and significance.

I turn to T.S. Eliot for a concluding coda:

We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

In the end, then, history responds to that ancient Greek injunction, gnothi seauton: know thyself. It also embodies the original impulse of the humanities, Geistewissenschaften, or spiritual studies. For it is only with self-knowledge that we can become conscious, moral, and purposive actors in our own lives. And only by knowing ourselves can we hope to change the world.

Jennifer Burns
Assistant Professor of History, Stanford University