AP US History at The Miller School of Albemarle

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Guidelines for Think Pieces

Guidelines for Think Pieces

As part of the course requirements, you will complete one “Think Piece” per unit. Any of the readings from the course reader are eligible for to write a think piece on. The purpose of the Think Pieces is to promote close, analytical reading and analysis of a primary source document, and to provide you with ideas to raise in class discussions. These writings should be short—no less than one typed page and no more than a page and a half. Use the Think Pieces as opportunities to examine the text’s strengths and weaknesses, to make connections with other texts from the class, and to suggest questions that you think we should discuss.

A few DOs and DON’Ts:

  • You are generally free to select the themes that you want to write about, but the Think Pieces should NOT be general summaries of the text.
  • DO raise interesting questions/insights/comments about a document. For example, if a text seems particularly biased, write about what you think that bias is, and how that bias might affect the information that the author is giving the reader. Or, if a text uses a particular concept in a way that is unexpected, write about why this surprised you, and what the author might mean by presenting a concept in that way. There are lots of different ways to go about writing a think piece—you simply need to find what surprises you in a text, or what angers you, or what interests you, and write about it.
  • Introduce your Think Piece by employing CONTEXTUALIZATION & PERIODIZATION.
Contextualization
  • Explain and evaluate ways in which specific historical phenomena, events, or processes connect to broader regional, national, or global processes occurring at the same time.

  • Explain and evaluate ways in which a phenomenon, event, or process connects to other, similar historical phenomena across time.
Periodization
  • Explain ways that historical events and processes can be organized within blocks of time.

  • Analyze and evaluate competing models of US history.
  • A Think Piece is NOT a research paper. You are, of course, welcome to explore other sources, but I do not expect you to do so.
  • DO support your arguments with specific examples from the text and explain the significance of these examples.
  • DO incorporate outside evidence.
  • Include at least one more of the following:
      • Historical context,
      • Intended audience,
      • Purpose of document,
      • Point of View of the author
  • Place all THINK PIECES in your APUSH Google Docs folder. If not submitted correctly, the paper will not be graded.
  • TITLE YOUR THINK PIECE:
      • AP USH Think Piece, Unit # __ – First, Last Name

BE SURE TO START WRITING THE THINK PIECES EARLY IN THE UNIT SO THAT YOU DON’T RUN OUT OF OPPORTUNITIES TO WRITE THEM.

Example Think Pieces

Example 1: Think Piece on John Dickinson’s Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania and “The Liberty Song”

I noticed a distinct new theme of both America and Freedom in several of the readings. Firstly, John Dickinson mentions in his letter “dislike of their conduct in that instance, has not blinded me so much, that I cannot plainly perceive, that they have been punished in a manner pernicious to American freedom, and justly alarming to all colonies”. And in many cases “Americans” and “Great Britain” are capitalized, drawing a distinct difference between the two entities. Dickinson is exercising what seems to be an early form of freedom of speech, “so let not any honest man suppress his sentiments concerning freedom, however small their influence is likely to be. Perhaps he may “atouch some wheel” that will have an effect greater than he expects.” I think of him almost as the original blogger- sending his thoughts out into the world. I see modern day John Dickinsons constantly sharing political articles on Facebook with their own interpretations or opinions attached. Either way, Dickinson clearly demonstrates the newer idea of America as a separate entity from Britain with freedom as an inextricable core value.

I noticed an even more exaggerated sentiment of Freedom in “The Liberty Song”. The first line of the chorus, “In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live” is quite a twisted statement. The colonists may not have been born as “slaves”, as they describe themselves, but they were not born free. That is, they were clearly born in a British colony under British rule. The second verse states: “Our worthy forefathers, let’s give them a cheer….Thro’ oceans to deserts for Freedom they came, And dying, bequeath’d us their freedom and fame”. The colonists claim to have inherited freedom because their ancestors came to America and became free, but other than religious freedom and some governmental neglect, these men were not free from the empire either. These are some pretty lofty assumptions that the new “Americans” are claiming. If anything the Indians should be making these claims! What kinds of songs must the Indians have had?!

Example 2: Think Piece on Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

There are many interesting points that can be examined in this address, involving not just its content, but Lincoln’s approach as well. For example, he clearly distinguishes the Union ‘good-guys’ and the Confederate ‘bad-guys,’ but he also makes it clear that he believes both sides are still under the same national umbrella. This is a clear lack of acknowledgement for the secession. He uses terms such as “insurgent agents,” which clearly points towards describing the conflict more as a suppression of rebels/revolutionaries, rather than the revocation of a seceded, and now independent nation of states (which is how the south viewed themselves at the time, and more accurately how they would have understood the conflict). It is curious as to why exactly Lincoln feels the need not to recognize what was essentially a temporary, but certain split in the nation. He describes the two sides as “parties,” which leads me to understand his recognition of the two sides to be similar to a simple (yet extremely aggressive) political disagreement, rather than what was in reality the south’s complete withdrawal from the US of old. The way in which Lincoln describes the rift is also interesting because it may well underlie his main reason for fighting/retaliating so fiercely. Believing that there was still only one nation, just with serious disagreements, meant that what he was doing when he fought was cleaning up an in-house affair, rather then invading (or being invaded by) a now separate nation. This in my opinion is a decent method of justifying what was, and had been for the past four years, a bloody battle fought in the backyard of the Americans gathered at the Address.

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