Article By: Molly Murphey
When asked to tell a story about Sonoma County, Mr. Franzman, Santa Rosa High School history teacher, offers the Battle of Washoe House.
Here’s how it goes: in 1865, after hearing that Democrats in Santa Rosa celebrated Lincoln’s assasination, a group of Republicans from Petaluma raised a small militia and took off to set their neighbors straight. On the way, they decided to stop at the Washoe House for a beer … and then another … and another. Having drunk the day away, they returned home without firing a single shot. You can still stop by the Washoe house, a roadhouse off of Stony Point Road, which has been serving for more than 150 years.
This is just one of the local histories that Franzman would have told in his California History class this year — had it not been cancelled.
“What became immediately apparent to me was that our students don’t know a darn thing about our own state. So that’s why this course is really important to me,” Mr. Franzman said of designing the course six years ago. Besides being one of the few California history classes available at a high school level, it’s also UC-approved.
Mr. Horner, Santa Rosa High School History Department Chair, is a fan of the course. He tells me that it covers “the twentieth century, from fights over water and the environment, to Hollywood,” in addition to the classic Gold Rush and Mexican settlement periods.
Past California History students had the opportunity to study the state’s Spanish, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, and Native American populations. “We spend a significant amount of time on the Native Americans,” Franzman says, “because they are unique in a state that is unique.”
As evidenced by their approval of ethnic studies as a graduation requirement for the class of 2025, the Santa Rosa City Schools board understands that it is important for students to study interactions between cultures and ethnic groups. Franzman’s class accomplishes this in the context of our state’s history.
“Careers that might incorporate a background in history would be law, politics, public policy, business, teaching, journalism, filmmaking, military, museum curator, professor, [or] researcher,” says Santa Rosa High School College and Career Counselor Tracy Batchelder.
She adds that, “you learn and hone so many great skills when studying history … even if you don’t use it in your career, history allows us to better understand people and the world that we live in and that, in and of itself, makes it a valuable course of study.”
After taking US and world history from Franzman, junior Emma Meiners requested California History as her elective next year because, “he just makes learning fun.” Madi Lana, another junior, adds that Franzman, “just loves being a teacher, and you can tell.” She’s excited about California history because she feels that, compared to other electives, it will be most worth her time.
Horner points out that schedules at Santa Rosa High School are “student driven, meaning that if enough people sign up, we get the course,” however, “there were plenty of students registered for California History for this [school] year but the administration made the choice to cancel it.”
Principal Dr. Clissold says that graduation requirements, class sizes, and teacher workload all influence which electives will be offered in a given year. While the fate of California History cannot be determined until the master schedule is finished, levels of student interest will play a big role in choosing the offerings for the next school year.
Although it may seem that teachers and students’ passion about an elective could put them at odds with administration, it’s really the opposite. Everyone is working to make sense of a complicated school and provide students with the best experience possible.
Whether you were interested in California History last year, or this is your first time hearing about it, you can contribute to student support for the class by including it in your course requests, due on January 22. If you’ve already submitted but want to include California History, let your counselor know— and understand that the sooner you do, the more likely they’ll be able to help.As Horner says, “one can’t understand this complex state and the current news without knowing how we got here.” He encourages students who are curious about the course to contact him or Mr. Franzman directly. While you’re at it, ask them to tell you a story.