Major Dad 1984

Cursed By A Classical Education

Let's just say that I intend to use this blog to blow off some steam that I might be feeling with the International/National media, my work situation, or maybe even to tee off on the family in a humorous way of course!


I Can't Believe I Had to Write This...

The following is a note I had to write to MajorTeen's AP History teacher. Where have we gone wrong?!?!?

Dear Mr. X:

The other night I noticed that my daughter, MajorTeen, appeared to be copying information from the AP US History textbook. When I asked her what she was doing, she said that she was taking notes for your review. These notes would later be used during the chapter test. Upon review of the notes, it was apparent that she was copying the text word for word. She added that this is something of a new policy, one that was implemented after receiving a new text book sometime after the beginning of the year. While I’m not entirely opposed to the use of open book/open notes exams, I’m somewhat puzzled at the rationale used that would allow a student to completely copy a chapter for use during an exam. I simply do not see where the learning is happening. I would like to understand if this is your policy, a district policy, or I’ve received some bad information from MajorTeen.

In my experience use of open book/open notes tests is usually restricted to the technical subjects to include: physics, chemistry, computer science and engineering where there are many complex formulas, constants, and concepts to remember. Knowing that these are available as reference materials in the technical field, I believe that these subjects warrant use of additional resources during testing. I’m failing to understand the need for such “crutches” in the study of history. From the CCHS Course guide:

During the first semester, this course will survey American History from 1865-1917, encompassing the post-Civil War era; the Industrial Revolution and its effect on farmers, laborers, and employers; basic government; the Spanish-American War and America’s move from isolationism. The second semester is a survey of American History from 1917 to the present, encompassing World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, Korean Conflict, Vietnam Conflict, New Deal (editorial note here....the New Deal should probably be listed between the Great Depression and World War II for accuracy's sake), Persian Gulf Crisis, war with Iraq and current issues.

It seems that you’ve broken the curriculum into manageable blocks to allow students to grasp the facts, concepts, and interactions between different forces throughout a period of history. By doing this it also follows that either an open book/open note approach to exams would be unnecessary. Use of study guides and aids are an excellent way for students to augment the learning they’re exposed to through reading and classroom discussion, but somewhere along the line I would expect there to be some point where a test is to be used to gauge how much or how little a student has grasped, retained, and understood. Use of a handwritten copy of a chapter hardly seems to be practical in achieving these goals.

As I would imagine your AP students are more often than not college bound, I think that they need to begin to set the crutches aside and work on developing good study skills. Note taking is an important key to performing well on quizzes, tests and exams, but may also lead to much better comprehension and understanding of a subject. Copying text word for word is nothing more than unnecessary “busy work.”

Please feel free to respond to this note to clarify any misunderstandings I may have made by knowing only one side of the story. I am very anxious about MajorTeen's studies and her study habits. If you think that there’s anything that I can do to assist MajorTeen or even the other students to improve their study habits pursuant to a better understanding of US history, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Please respond to the email address, as I am able to receive it nearly round the clock.

Very respectfully,


Read the rest of the longer story!


At 4:43 PM, Blogger the urban fox said...

That does seem like a waste of time. That's the kind of task a nervous substitute teacher gives out.

Do you have a compulsory national curriculum in America as we do in Britain, or is it up to each individual school to decide what (and how) to teach its students?

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Jim said...

I was a math teacher for five years and I can tell you now if it's true, the teacher is assigning "busy work". The goal of busy work is to get the kids to do something that is time consuming so they will leave you alone (so you can grade papers, etc.). Usually busy work is meant to be at least somewhat educational- not copying a book. It could be writing an essay, solving word puzzels where the definitions of the words need to be known, etc.
Fox- there are national curriculums, but not well enforced. Each School district then assigns it's own curriculum specific to the region. It's very disorganized.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Debbie (U.S. Navy Wife) said...

I'm very interested in the reply from the teacher. Did you receive one? Is it fit for posting?

I often find myself writing to my son's teachers along the same lines. The answers I've received have been less than satisfactory.

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Well, as a student myself, open-note and open-book tests are a rare gift from my APUSH teacher. I find that open-note tests help me learn the material well, because it forces me to take detailed and extensive notes on the chapters in question. We have only taken open-book tests when our teacher considers the chapter less important than others and wants to move past it quickly and spend more time thoroughly going over other chapters. And verbatim notes? No offense, but I think the problem lies with your kid; if she were to put the text into her own words, whether in her head or on paper, she will probably pick up the material much more efficiently.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger MajorDad said...

UPDATE 11/17Mr. X did get in touch with me the day after I sent him this email. While he had a decent sounded like he was using the wrong metrics in trying to measure the success of his students.

As this is an AP History class, he wants to use the results of the AP History exam administered to measure results. I'm not all that fired up about saving a couple hundred bucks by MajorTeen not having to take a college US history class. I'd rather see her learn how to study preparation for college.

We'll see how it works out!

From the high ground!


At 1:17 AM, Blogger Debbie (U.S. Navy Wife) said...

Thank you for the update.



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