Americans have always been fascinated by the West—in fact, the further the "Old West" recedes into the past, the more fascinated we seem to become. But to a large extent, our obsession with the West has distorted our understanding of it. The legendary West of our popular imagination has obscured much of the real history. Who needs facts when you have the Lone Ranger?
Therefore, one of the challenges for you within this unit is to contrast the mythology surrounding the West with its real history. To facilitate this process you might begin by surveying your students' sense of the West. How was the West "won"? Who were the critical figures in this tale? What sort of people moved West? What traits and qualities led to success? And finally, what role did the federal government play within this history?