April 19, 2006

More on the AP U.S. History Test:

A reader writes:

Your correspondents are absolutely right about AP history. I took both AP history classes that were offered in my high school--AP American and AP European--and I don't remember learning about one battle. It was all political and social history, with scant references to actual battles. Of course this bored me and my friends silly. We wanted blood, honor and steel and they gave us the progress of women's rights in the nineteenth century. Waterloo? What's that? Let's talk about universal suffrage instead. Most teenage boys are War Nerds but they gave us Home Ec. on a global scale.

I cannot help think about how this affects our current ability to run the new American empire in the Middle East. Our best and brightest kids are educated without any knowledge about how wars are fought and won. How on earth are they supposed to understand the Iraqi insurgency much less develop a way to deal with or defeat it? I'm 33 years old, so it's not as if this is a new thing. We have a couple of generations of Americans who are ignorant about the real wars our country fought.

Another reader points out the Princeton Review appears to be exaggerating in its know-it-all smart-aleck style when it says "no military history:"

There might be a little exaggeration in the tales of "no military history" APs I took mine in 99 and although I cannot say that our education was especially rigorous in this area I remember taking DBQ questions based on the island hopping strategy against Japan in WWII and another in a practice exam about the immediate and long term foreign policy effect of our atomic bombs on Russia. We didn't cover strategy in regards the Civil War but we learned to associate slogans and catchphrases with certain battles - "turning point" etc... etc.

In the official 54 page College Board guide to the Advanced Placement U.S. History test, the word "war" comes up 42 times, but "battle" zero times.

At Everything2.com, there are a couple of pertinent comments by recent test-takers.

- What they won't be about: Military history will never be the subject of a multiple-choice question. (Caveat scholasticus: On the 2002 AP exam, one of the questions asked which Revolutionary War battle convinced the French that the rebels were deserving of French aid. This is military history, but it's military history in a greater context, so they thought it was fine. You have been warned.)

- There might be one or two military history questions, but they'll be fairly obvious, asking you to explain why Washington won the war (He kept his army intact) or what we did during Vietnam.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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