It has been an excellent week at Colorado State University in Fort Collins – – site of the 2009 European history read. We spent our days reading essays while attending seminars, lectures, and forums at night; I found myself dinning most nights with bright scholars, ambitious teachers, learners, and colleagues. Honestly, to call them just a colleague is an injustice. I see some of them every year at the reading, at the national conference, or other venues that requires both work and play. This was my second year to serve as Table Leader for the read; it was made easy by those I was leading through the reading process at my table. The writing process on exams is a complex task that many students are not equipped to do. I have been fortunate to teach a number of highly intelligent students; I have discovered, though, that not all students can do this type of work …. Some on my campus and others.
AP history exams require students to answer 80 complex multiple choice questions in a span of 55 minutes; they have to write a total of three highly organized essays showcasing their ability to construct a well developed thesis that is categorically supported by relevant facts. Of the three essays, one is a document based question (DBQ). A student has 60 minutes to study, analyze, evaluate, and categorize 10 – 12 primary documents in a constructive manner that answers the DBQ question. If a student achieves a score of 3 (out of 5) or better, he or she depending on the college will earn college credit. AP courses by nature are very demanding.
The Advanced Placement European History reading is done; I read this essay question in which students had to write (below is 1 of the 3). I learned that many students do not know the difference between a Nazis and a communist.
Analyze the long-term and short-term factors responsible for the disintegration of communists rule in TWO of the following states: Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland.
Below are a few comments students “actually” wrote on their exam. If you know much about eastern European history and the Cold War, you will find much humor here:
1. Germany was divided into two parts with Otto Von Bismarck controlling one part of Germany and Hitler controlling East Germany after he erected the Berlin Wall.
2. Communist leader Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and forced communism on the people.
3. As a result of the Marshall Plan, Czechoslovakia gained its independence.
4. At the end of WWII, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe.
5. The Belgium Wall was erected in Czechoslovakia.
6. The Eastern Bloc countries were not really countries.
7. The European Empire was a dominate force in history.
8. The Social Democratic Party of Germany was against imperialization of Africa because the socialists do not like capitalism and that was the impetus of invading the country of Africa. In addition, the Democrats did not support the conquering of Africa because they are peaceful and are not mean like that.
9. Communism was doomed to failure because of all the unstable leaders.
10. Pope Julius II was instrumental in the rise of Polish solidarity. He, along with Lech Welesa, brought an end to communism.
11. In East Germany, Hitler was a major reason for the switch from communism to Nazism.
12. The Truman Doctrine helped the Czech’s gain independence.
13. Napoleon led the Czechs to overthrow communist rule.
14. The USSR emerged as a power within Russia alongside the Bolsheviks and Lenin.
15. Hitler wrote a book a called the Kulturkampf.
16. After WWII, Germany was split into pieces to be looked after and rebuilt. Once rebuilt, Eastern Germany got the Soviet Union as its ruler. Germany happened to be democratic and allowed Hitler to hold annual elections that brought about communism.