Philosophy Essay: Against Representation

**This was for my ARTI/PHIL/PSYC 3550 class as my final essay and in summary, this essay argues against the classical models of cognitive science where representation is seen as essential to artificial intelligence. Final grade was a B+, so there are points where there might be thin spots, but overall, if y’all have any thoughts or points of disagreements, leave’em in the comments below. :)**

Introduction

Throughout much of our study and development of human cognition and its replication in the various forms of artificial intelligence, there has been an underlying assumption from which we have based our work on– that to replicate intelligent thought and intelligent behavior requires extensive representation. However, representation isn’t only unnecessary but that it would actually be detrimental to our efforts to create true artificial intelligence and our understanding of our own cognition if we keep the level of representation that we currently implement in our machines.

Embodied Cognition

“A machine can exist in an abstract plane where it can crunch numbers detached from the physical world. We, on the other hand, are enmeshed in it.”

A key difference between us and the machines we create is in our embodiment. A machine can exist in an abstract plane where it can crunch numbers detached from the physical world. We, on the other hand, are enmeshed in it. Our bodies constantly feed us information about the environment and we have no way of disconnecting from it. Our cognition is fundamentally embodied and our bodies affect the way we think and vice versa. 

This can be shown in our use of language. Language is a cognitive tool that both permits the expression of and the limitations of our cognition and how we use it tells us a lot about how we think. Since so much of our cognition is expressed and shaped within the constraints of our language, Language shows us just how much of our cognition is rooted in our bodies. For example, warmth is associated with affection (“warming up to someone”), weightiness is associated with value and importance, and exposure to immoral or unethical instances causes a feeling of uncleanliness [1]. In these cases, it shows that there is a reciprocal relationship between our cognition and our physiological form. 

This strong connection between body and mind means we often never have to completely hold our thought processes in our brains. For example, if we are working out a math problem, we can write it down and refer back to earlier steps to help complete later steps. This way, we only have to store the current step of the process in our brain, make the immediately relevant calculation and then the information can be stored and kept track of on an external medium. Since our brains are limited in its energy stores, it saves a lot of energy by processing information in small chunks and to externalise it like this. Rather than wasting time and energy replicating a model of the problem space internally to manipulate, we can just reference reality to inform us on what to do next. This ties back to cognitive technology [2] where external mediums can be used to bolster our cognitive processes and therefore, become an extension of our cognition. It makes sense, then, that since we can save energy, increase our cognitive abilities and make use of a body we were born with, a lower level of representation and a more embodied cognitive process will allow us to make better use of the body we possess and our energy resources and therefore, is a much more efficient way than the fully representational classical models. We will see how this need for efficiency means that, in our brains, just the minimal level of representation is used to allow us to “scrape by”.

Efficiency Argument

The human brain and its mysterious inner workings that we try to replicate in artificial intelligence have been shown to use far less representation than we thought. We can see this in all the ways that the brain fails to notice what should have been significant details like in the famous Gorilla Experiment [3] where participants, upon being asked to watch a clip of a basketball game, fail to spot when a person in a gorilla suit walks through the middle of the game. If the brain used the same level of representation as our machines, then all the participants should have made a complete internal model of the basketball game and noticed the gorilla. Instead, it seems that the brain is selective in its attention and by doing so, restricts the amount of information it needs to process at one time and is, therefore, more efficient.

” Rather, it seems that, for the most part, our brains can get by with as little representation as possible to be functional and be generally correct when it comes to problem-solving.”

Besides incomplete representation, the brain is also prone to a phenomenon called gist memory[4] where our memory can be, at times, approximative and at worst, unreliable. In a task where participants are asked to remember words with similar associations like “ice”, “snow”, and “winter” from a list, participants often say they remember a word, like “cold”, that wasn’t present on the list but also shared those associations. Other shortcomings like the notoriously unreliable eyewitness testimony have further exposed just how little our brain represents from the world. Rather, it seems that, for the most part, our brains can get by with as little representation as possible to be functional and be generally correct when it comes to problem-solving.

Evolution Argument

However, we are not the only ones capable of exhibiting intelligent behavior. In fact, much of intelligent behavior doesn’t need a brain but rather an interlocking system of simple operations that, when viewed gestalt, suggest intelligence. Roboticist Rodney Brooks coined the term “subsumption architecture”[5] to describe such a structure. We need to look no further than our own bodies for an example. Our immune system possesses remarkable adaptability and complexity[6] that, if we didn’t know any better, we might have thought that the individual cells within our body possess their own intelligence. From the outside, the operations of the cells that make up our immune system seem to be a conscious, coordinated effort but each cell is actually just responding to certain stimuli released by other cells like proteins or hormones. 

This sort of organisation can be seen in organisms like ants where they use very simple chemical markers that elicit simple behaviors that, when repeated within a colony of thousands or millions of members, can forage for food, wage war, maintain fungus farms and aphid herds, and build floating rafts to survive floods. Brooks himself built creatures based on crickets that showed how intelligent behavior like finding mates which require pathfinding and spatial reasoning can actually be the result of very simple physiochemical reactions within the body[5].

Therefore, not only is representation not needed at all for certain intelligent behaviors but even for the human brain, representation is only very minimally used. However, there is more to our intelligence than merely problem-solving and so far, it doesn’t seem like they’ve been accounted for. 

Rebuttals

Imagination, for one, hasn’t been accounted for. Imagination, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality”. This means that, necessarily, to be able to imagine means that the things we imagine must not already exist and therefore unable to be represented. It can be argued that our imagination is actually just a composite of previous experiences (representations) put together in novel ways to make something technically “new”. However, it must be considered that just because representations of something exists doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily real. For example, illusions and hallucinations causes a person to represent something that isn’t actually there. I am of the thought that the false representation of a non-actual object cannot be truly considered to be represented the same way we represent what’s real[see 7]. In the same vein, although I cannot yet explain the presence of these false representations, I argue that imagination, due to its focus on the non-actual, does not in fact rely on representations or at least, the type of representation as we currently understand it to be.

“We don’t know why it is so, it just feels right.”

Second, our memory, it might seem, also depends on representations. After all, memory is formed through the encoding of past experiences. However, I argue for limited representation, not the total elimination of representation. It is true that a certain type of memory (fact-based, non-phenomenal memory) may be represented but it still doesn’t account for other types. Muscle memory, for example, is formed through repetition of a movement and once formed, is accessed without conscious effort. This is different from the explicit content that makes up represented memories. Similarly, ability-based memory also seems to lack representation. For example, when teaching another to drive, it is hard to articulate the feeling of the car, how to know how far to turn or how far the hood extends past the steering wheel. Perhaps a better example can be found in our use of language. We can usually go about our day and communicate with no problem but once we are forced to slow down and explain the finer details of grammar or convention, we are often stumped. We don’t know why it is so, it just feels right. Efficiency once again plays a role here. By cutting out the thinking part of certain operations like driving a car or figuring out grammar before speaking, the brain doesn’t need to waste resources “reinventing the wheel” and rather, just knows that certain stimuli should entail certain reactions. You don’t need to think, “the light is green and green means go” before pressing the gas pedal. You do it automatically. This way, the process cuts out thinking and representing entirely and can go straight from sensing to reacting.

It was given for a long time that the representational theory of mind would be the basis on which we can produce higher cognition in our own creations but now we know better than to let that be the end-all-be-all. With a better understanding of the reciprocal relationship between our bodies and our cognition, studies that reveal just how little our own brains rely on complete representation, and the fact that not everything that looks intelligent is intelligent, it seems that representation is actually a rather inefficient and insufficient explanation for all the miracles we are capable of.

References

[1] McNerney, Samuel. “A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain.” Scientific American Blog Network, Scientific American, 4 Nov. 2011, blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/a-brief-guide-to-embodied-cognition-why-you-are-not-your-brain/.

[2] “Chapter 9: Extended Minds?” Mindware: an Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science, by Andy Clark, Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 192–211.

[3] Simons, Daniel, director. Selective Attention Test. YouTube, YouTube, 10 Mar. 2010, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo.

[4 ]Makin, Simon. “What Happens in the Brain When We Misremember.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 9 Sept. 2016, www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-happens-in-the-brain-when-we-misremember/

[5] Brooks, Rodney A. “Intelligence Without Reason.” The Artificial Life Route to Artificial Intelligence, 2018, pp. 25–81., doi:10.4324/9781351001885-2. 

[6]Chaplin, David D. “Overview of the Immune Response.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923430/

[7] Loar, Brian. “Transparent Experience and the Availability of Qualia.” Consciousness and Meaning, 2017, pp. 273–290., doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673353.003.0016.

Symbolic Logic: Conditional/Indirect Proofs and Proving Theorems

Hey guys! So, this time, we’re going look at other methods we can use to construct proofs when just deriving from the premises isn’t enough.

Conditional Proof (CP)

The setup:

Basically, you use this method when the conclusion or a part of the conclusion you want is a conditional. This makes it so you assume the predicate in order to derive the consequent. Here’s an example:

Indirect Proof (IP)

The setup:

For this method, you use this primarily when the conclusion is a negated statement. You assume the un-negated form of the conclusion and attempt to find a contradiction so that the assumption is false, thus ending at the negated form. It also works the other way around where the conclusion isn’t negated so you make the assumption negated instead and then use the DN rule at the end. It’s also super useful when proving theorems where you have a limited plan of action. An example:

Theorems

Theorems are formulas that can be proven true without premises so the proofs for theorems have the additional challenge of not being able to build off of premises. Therefore, the above two methods are essential to be able to do proofs of theorems. Here’s an example:

RULES

  1. All assumptions must be discharged(closed).
  2. Lines between different assumptions must not cross.
  3. Once discharged, steps within the subproof cannot be used anymore.

On to the next page for a few practice problems!

APCS Chapter 6: 2D Arrays and ArrayLists

Alright, it’s time to tackle 2D arrays and arrayLists. 2D arrays are basically arrays of arrays. First off, 2D arrays:

2D Arrays

To start off with, the declaration and instantiation. Since 2D arrays are objects, we will use the new operator. There are several ways to do this:

The “normal” way:

data type [] [] name = new data type [# of rows] [# of collumns];

Example: I want to create a 2D array called nums containing int data with 2 rows and 3 collumns:

int[] [] nums = new int[2][3];

If you want to create a jagged array where each row is of a different length, then you can input your values directly into the 2D array. There are several ways to do this but I’m going to show you guys the simplest one:

int[] [] nums =

{

{4, 5, 6, 4},

{7, 234, 34, 1},

{23, 57, 2}

};

(Of course, you can write this all on one line but this layout looks more intuitive.)

So, this is what the 2D array would look like visually:

getimage

If this were a rectangular 2D array and not a jagged array, any attempt to retrieve a data value from the index position (3, 2) would return null so keep that in mind if you are manipulating or accessing a 2D array. There is also a thing called sparseArrays and an FRQ concerning sparseArrays has popped up on the AP exams (although I don’t think it’s likely to pop up again but hey, the more you know…) so here’s a link that kind of explains it but I don’t really think you need to know it for this class because it’s a little more high-level.

Traversing Through a 2D Array

With 2D arrays, you also need to know how to traverse through them. You can do this through the basic three types of loops. I’m going to show an example of each.

For Loops

You can use both the for loop and a for each loop. In my examples, I’m going to use the loops to add up all the numbers in the 2D array. I’m going to use the nums array that I instantiated above (all of the loops work with regular 2D arrays as well as jagged 2D arrays). This is how to use a regular nested for loop to go through every element in a 2D array and add them up.

int sum = 0;

for (int row = 0; row < nums.length; row++)

for (int col = 0; col < nums[row].length; col++)

sum += nums[row][col];

For Each Loop

For each loops are a little less intuitive to use but in the first part of the parameters denote which type of data type you’re trying to handle within the array and the second part is the array that you want to traverse through.

int sum = 0;

for (int[] num : nums)  //this looks at each row of thes 2D array

for (int i : num)  //this looks at all the data values within each row

sum+= num;

Both of these loops do the same thing.

While Loops

As a rule of thumb, while loops are used when you don’t know how many times iterations you need the loop to go through. I’m just going to use the basic example I used above and write a while loop instead.

int row = 0, col = 0, sum = 0;

while (row < nums.length) {

while (col < nums[row].length) {

sum += nums[row][col];

col++; }

row++; }

 ArrayLists

APUSH Discussion Groups: Was Lincoln the best president? (No)

While I disagree with my given stance, this was the position given to me to argue, so I had to take it. I like arguing the on the losing side anyway; it’s much more exciting and fresh. In any case, since each side of the debate is made up of a team of two people, my partner and I decided to split up the ways in which we would argue that Lincoln was not the best president. I was responsible for talking about his economic policies during and after the Civil War. As always, the outline is written in the least amount of words possible since they only serve as pointers to what I’ll actually say during the debate.

Stance: No (economic)

Synthesis and Thesis:

   Each president has one thing they are known most for. For Harry Truman, he was most remembered for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ensuring a speedy end to World War II. Because of that, he is often ranked pretty highly when it comes to his popularity as president. But during his two terms, he also created the state of Israel and the CIA and contributed significantly to the advent of the Cold War. In creating Israel against the advice of diplomats and the wishes of the Palestinians, he created the long war between the Jewish and the Arabs that continues to this day. The CIA would go on to interfere in the politics of numerous countries, stage coups and organise regimes of torture for several decades after its conception and in issuing the Truman Doctrine, he would effectively start the Cold War. These results from his actions didn’t seem to detract from his popularity despite their disagreeable long-term consequences. Similarly, President Lincoln was hailed as a hero for reuniting the halves of the US in the Civil War and then as a martyr after he was assassinated. But what most people don’t consider was the private agenda from which his policies sprung. In the end, the Civil War could have been shorter in duration, the South could have been spared from total destruction and Lincoln should have refrained from abusing his powers as president, but they didn’t happen so he was not, in fact, the best president the United States had or even the best president he could have been.

Points:

  • “Hamiltonian Economy”- favored the rich and powerful (and the North)
    • Raised tariffs 18.84% to 47.56% from 1861-5, would continue till after the War, will especially devastate the South
    • Return to National Bank and greenbacks
      • National Banking Acts of 1863 & 4, Legal Tender Act
      • caused massive inflation
    • brought back self-perpetuating debt (war bonds)
    • investments in farms, small businesses discouraged
    • overturned bank laws that kept the balance of wealth
    • banks, internal improvements and protective tariffs otherwise known as the “American System”
  • raised heavy taxes
    • used by gov’t in war efforts and well as not-so-war-efforts
      • ex: granted to Union Pacific Railway a huge swathe of land and $
      • ensured favors among big businesses with the Republican Party
  • contradicting economic policies
    • undermined the Homestead Act of 1862 by encouraging land speculation
      • <19% of land went to homesteaders
    • “spoils system”
      • allowed trade with South (cotton) for “special friends”
      • funnelled $10 million into Republican organisations

APUSH Essay Prep Unit IX: Cold War

We got only got five essay prompts for this unit.

(1) Analyze the impact of TWO of the following on Soviet-American relations in the decade following the Second World War, 1945-1955.

The Yalta Conference    Communist Revolution in China

Korean War    McCarthyism

Synthesis: US-Soviet relations were never good to begin with. Then, with the Cold War came the Red Scare and America’s refusal to recognise the USSR as a legitimate nation. Then, in 1933, President Roosevelt ended this non-recognition in hopes of bettering the US’s economic situation during the Great Depression.

Contextualisation: You can use the Communist Revolution in China and how that excited more fears of communist expansion and power.

  • American efforts to prevent a civil war in China and the expansion of communism failed.
  • In 1949 the Communists won the battle against the Nationalists and Mao Zedong declared the existence of the People’s Republic of China, showing how he would align the country with the Soviet Union.
  • On February 15, 1950 a treaty of alliance between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union was signed. It was called the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance. – The Soviet Union recognised the People’s Republic of China while the United States did not as easily want to recognise the new regime.
  • The Communist Revolution in China affected Soviet-American relations seeing as though there was another communist world power when America was trying to obstruct the expansion of communism

Points:

Yalta Conference —

  • Stalin wanted postwar economic assistance for Russia and British and U.S. recognition of a Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Churchill wanted the protection of the British Empire but also clarify what would happen to Germany after the war. The United States wanted an agreement on the United Nations and Soviet agreement to enter the war on the Pacific Theatre after Hitler was defeated.
    • Churchill and Roosevelt promised the Soviet Union concessions in Manchuria and the territories it had lost in the Russo-Japanese War.
    • They also accepted Stalin’s pledge to include pro-westerners in the new Polish government and to allow elections as soon as possible. (in reality, Stalin installed a pro-communist regime and brutally subdued the anti-communist Poles)
  • The outcome of the Yalta conference did not satisfy all three leaders. None were able to reach an agreement on the future of Germany, but Stalin vowed to declare war on Japan after Germany’s surrender.
  • After Germany was defeated, Truman grew tired of waiting for the Russians to allow free elections in Poland and threatened to cut off lend-and-lease aid; on the other hand, Stalin strengthened his grip on Eastern Europe, ignoring the promises he made at Yalta.
  • The Yalta Conference brought to light the issue of postwar Poland. The Poland issue created mistrust and animosity between the Soviet Union and the United States. Roosevelt was later accused of “giving away” Eastern Europe to Stalin. (Very important)
  • The lack of peaceful agreements that satisfied all three Allied leaders during the Second World War led to Soviet-American relations suffering, which would eventually lead to the Cold War.

Korean War —

  • After WWII, U.S. and the Soviet Union temporarily divided Korea.
  • America supported South Korea and the Soviet Union supported North Korea; both wanting the sole right to rule all of Korea.
  • North Korean troops attacked South Korea, so Truman fought back seeing the attack as a Soviet test of U.S. will and containment
  • Truman did not want to be accused of “selling out” Eastern Europe as FDR had been before. He needed to stand up to the Russians and prevent the spread of communism.
  • As U.N. forces were crossing the 38th parallel, the Chinese intervened and at the end of the war, Korea had the same boundary as before. The war caused 800,000 Chinese casualties, more than 50,000 American lives along with thousands of U.N. troops, and the death of millions of Koreans.
  • The Korean War further showed how the United States had a commitment to prevent the spread of communism, further angering the Russians and causing American-Soviet relations to worsen.
  • Added “fuel to the fire” during the Cold War

(2) Analyze the successes and failures of the United States Cold War policy of containment as it developed in TWO of the following regions of the world during the period 1945 to 1975.

Southeast Asia    Europe    Middle East    Latin America

Synthesis: Wilson’s “Make the world safe for democracy” and “end all wars” in WW1→ failure due to idealism

Contextualisation: The failure to contain Communism was accompanied by a growing fear and suspicion of Communism within the nation, which eventually led to the McCarthyism and the Red Scare, where many, especially those working in government offices, were accused of being Communists.

Points:

Europe —

  • Stalin broke the promise he made at the Yalta Conference of 1945 that he would let Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria have democratic elections by establishing Communist governments in all three. This was the beginning of tensions between the USSR and the US through the lens of communism and democracy.
  • There was an “Iron Curtain” as termed by Churchill which divided Europe in two
  • We joined the UN in 1945 to be active in world affairs, especially to combat Communism
  • In the Truman Doctrine of 1947, it was established that the United States would support democracies in order to deter the Communism that the Soviet Union was spreading in Europe. Although it began by referring only to Greece and Turkey, it was later accepted generally and became the basis for the American containment policy.
  • The Marshall Plan (1948) later passed to help economies of countries in Europe in order to fend off the Soviet Union’s potential attempts to spread Communism
  • We believed that a European country with a stronger economy was less likely to fall under the communist pressures exerted by the USSR
  • There were two Germanys divided both physically as well as ideologically, which was made a physical division by the Berlin Wall in 1961; the West was democratic and had American support
    • Blockade and airlift
      • “The Berlin Blockade was an attempt in 1948 by the Soviet Union to limit the ability of France, Great Britain and the United States to travel to their sectors of Berlin, which lay within Russian-occupied East Germany.”
      • US Response: “Berlin airlift, 1948–49, supply of vital necessities to West Berlin by air transport primarily under U.S. auspices. It was initiated in response to a land and water blockade of the city that had been instituted by the Soviet Union in the hope that the Allies would be forced to abandon West Berlin.”
    • Led to NATO to establish collective security
  • We signed NATO in 1949 with Canada, Great Britain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Portugal
    • Greece, Turkey, and West Germany later joined
    • The alliance successfully strengthened defences against the Soviet Union
    • Strengthened our security and prevented us from reverting to being isolationist
    • Therefore, it was a success

Southeast Asia —

  • Much of SE Asia was becoming Communist-for example, Mao Zedong led the Chinese Revolution and turned it “red”. As Communism grew, we became more and more vigilant and anxious to deter it.
    • We sent the Nationalists 2 billion dollars to support their cause
    • No avail
  • We demilitarised/disarmed Japan
  • Korean War
    • Americans saw the North Korean attack as a Communist campaign that could continue all over the world, and thought to help to fight against them was to prevent the spread of Communism
    • “If we let Korea down, the Soviet[s] will keep right on going and swallow up one [place] after another.” –President Truman
    • Our war aims were that we wanted to free North Korea of Communism as well
    • In the end, there we were not able to make any gains for South Korea and the communist North stayed communist, and there was status antebellum, but we did succeed in stopping possible spread of communism from North Korea at the expense of countless lives
  • Vietnam War
    • North Vietnam was Communist, unlike South Vietnam, and so we entered on the side of the South
    • Domino Theory
    • Involvement seemed logical and there did not seem to be any reason to think we could not “win”. That we did not was a consequence of overestimating what U.S. power could accomplish and underestimating the will of the Vietnamese communists.
    • Was generally unpopular among the public, and we withdrew troops in 1973 (effectively surrendering)
    • 58,000 Americans were killed and South Vietnam lost, so the Communist North Korea (with support of the Viet Cong) took over and united Vietnam
    • Was a failure

Analysis —

  • There were better results in Europe than in Southeast Asia: rather than losing innumerable lives only to bear little fruit, we strengthened ties with other democracies and supported them so that USSR efforts would not be effective.
  • In Southeast Asia, there was more violence involved whereas European dealings are mostly treaties, agreements, and support networks (though there were still some conflicts). In both major wars in Southeast Asia, we did not emerge as clear winners although the loss of life and other costs were enormous.
  • In Southeast Asia, we overestimated our military power
  • For these reasons, it can be said that we succeeded in our policy of containment in Europe but failed in Southeast Asia

(3) While the U.S. appeared to be dominated by consensus and conformity in the 1950’s, some Americans reacted against the status quo. Analyze the critiques of U.S. society made by TWO of the following:

Youth    Civil Rights Activists    Intellectuals

Synthesis: U.S. dominated by consensus due to prosperity during the 1920s but some Americans reacted against status quo by criticising America’s materialism (“Lost Generation”).

Contextualisation: Intellectuals rebelling against society (i.e.: Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring”). Until publication, few Americans knew about effects of pesticides on humans, plants, animals, etc and how they poisoned the environment. It warned of the dangers to all natural systems and questioned the direction of modern science.

Civil Rights Activists —

  • Jackie Robinson (first black MLB player) broke race barrier and triumphed despite racial abuse.
  • Truman, pressured by African-American supporters, ordered Executive Order 9981 which banned racial discrimination in the military and thus went against “Solid South’s” insistence on white supremacy.
  • Activists demanded perm FEPC (Fair Employment Practices Commission), outlawing of lynching, and poll tax
  • The FEPC was established in 1941 to enforce the order signed by Franklin Roosevelt that banned “discrimination in the employment of workers in defence industries or government because of race, creed, colour, or national origin.”
  • Thurgood Marshall helped end segregation in schools as Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” (Plessy v Ferguson) unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. began civil rights crusade and advocated for justice but through nonviolent means in order to demonstrate evils of racism.
  • African Americans followed Dr. King and Rosa Park’s lead and boycotted segregated Montgomery buses and Supreme Court agreed by outlawing segregation on buses.

Youth —

  • Juvenile delinquency skyrocketed and embraced other “scandalous” activities like rock n’ roll.
  • Yet youth continued to listen to music and rock n’ roll sales skyrocketed thanks to the rise of Elvis Presley.
    • Rock and roll music dropped allusions to ideas such as disobedience and crime and was met with much opposition from older generations, calling the genre anything from “a plot to corrupt the youth” to “the devil’s music”
  • Beats (nonconformist writers) expressed revolt against middle-class society by scorning materialism and conformity.
  • Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road showed disdain towards the conformity and materialism seen in the United States. They mocked the “square” America.
  • Students protested capital punishment and demonstrated against HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). Others decried nuclear-arms race. (i.e.: in ’58-59, thousands participated in Youth Marches for Integrated Schools in Washington).
  • Salinger wrote “Catcher in the Rye”, a prominent book that was controversial due to it involving vulgar language, discussing sexuality in an open way, etc and thus sparked debate over censorship. However, it was applauded for showing a teenager’s alienation from the world and thus many saw Holden as a symbol of pure individuality in face of conformity imposed by society.

Because this is a complex theme, I will break away from the usual points system and just provide context and events in which case you need to determine what you need to write your essay.

(4) How do you account for the appeal of McCarthyism in the United States in the era following the Second World War?

Synthesis: First Red Scare

Contextualisation: Around the same time (the 1950s), a new wave of feminist and (especially) civil rights movements were starting to build. The US economy was the largest in the world. Communism also means fewer economic opportunities for the US which would limit capitalism expansion and many people were resentful because of that.

Info:

  • Origins
    • Red Scare
      • Reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution in the USSR and the emergence of Communism
      • Suspicions of leftist movements b/c of labor unrest, bombings attributed to unions and anarchists, and the incoming immigrants with socialist and anarchist ideas
      • Resulted in “aggressive Justice Department investigations, severe violations of civil liberties [Espionage and Sedition Acts], mass arrests and deportations, and several high-profile convictions”
  • Key Perpetrators
    • Dems vs Repubs
      • Dems have been in power for over a decade under FDR and the Repubs tried to link his New Deal with communist ideas while Dems fired back that the Repubs were linked with fascism. But during 1946 midterm elections, fascism is no longer a threat and by “red-baiting”, the Repubs managed to start winning back seats in Congress and also in the White House
    • FBI Under pressure for being soft on Communism, Prez Truman initiated a loyalty review program that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover presided over. With strong anti-communist views and loose standards of evidence, many people were accused without sufficient evidence. Hoover’s insistence on keeping sources secret meant that there was no way to verify the integrity of accusations and many didn’t know what they were being accused of or by whom. This apparent abundance of Communist sympathisers in the gov’t only fed into the fear of a Communist takeover of America.
    • HUAC (House Un-American Committee) conducted an investigation into Hollywood to see if their films secretly endorse communist ideas. The Hollywood elites have been supporting liberal policies and this was a way for conservatives to discredit them. Ten were singled out for resisting investigation by HUAC and tried before the House (the Hollywood Ten). All ten of them were cited for contempt of Congress and were either fired or suspended without pay (effectively blacklisted from Hollywood) by their company and jailed for one year.
      • This sort of attack on media figures saw the arrest of many writers, broadcast journalists, musicians, actors etc later on. It only intensified with the advent of Red Channels, a rightwing journal, that listed names of entertainers that were supposingly Communist. Red Channels had a lot of influence. People who were named lost their jobs and no one dared to hire them.
    • Sen. Richard Nixon Played a large role in the Alger Hiss Trial that helped reinstate the Republican majority in Congress that they had lost by 1948. The trial involved a gov’t official named Alger Hiss whose work primarily concerned liberal causes. A guy named Whittaker Chambers accused him of being a Communist. The HUAC held a hearing for Hiss and was satisfied with his presentation but Nixon pushed for deeper investigation. Information afterwards came out that Hiss had copies of official papers and in a later court case, he was convicted, giving Nixon and the Republican agenda a huge boost. With the success of the Alger Hiss Trial, Republicans pressured Truman and other Democrat officials into cracking down on communist sympathisers in the gov’t and suggested that Democrats were in league with Communists
    • Sen. Joseph McCarthy McCarthy gave his fateful speech Feb 9th 1950, where he claimed to have over 200 names of people who were “bad risks” working in the State Dept. When the gov’t denied such charges and demanded to see McCarthy’s source, McCarthy told them that he would let them see his list of names if they opened their loyalty files. In reality, he had an outdated list of names from previous investigations that were already known to the public but the public ate it up and bought into it, really believing that the State Dept had been filled with Communists. He used more outdated, biased and outright made-up information to sway people to his side and used his influence and his all-powerful list of names to get himself and his party more power by accusing more people. The media gobbled it up and printed headlines. This continued for four years.
      • Both Nixon and McCarthy were paranoid and insecure. They loved power and was very afraid that someone would take it away from them. These attributes would be part of the reason why they were driven to do all this.
  • Outside Threat
  • The military threat of the USSR along with the hostility between the US and the USSR meant that war had to be prepared for and the shoring up of the military, as a result, threatened the US
  • The takeover of western Europe by the USSR meant that people were disillusioned about the result of WWII, that is, the freeing of the people of Europe and this made people angry and afraid at the same time
  • The news of Russian spies surfaced (eg Elizabeth Bentley, who gave American intel to the USSR about Germany & Claus Fuchs, who leaked details of the Manhattan Project which helped to make the USSR a nuclear nation) to obvious result
  • Within months, the USSR successfully tested an atomic bomb (Aug 1949), the Chinese communists won their Civil War, forcing the (US-backed) Guomindang into modern Taiwan and instituted a communist gov’t in China (late 1949) and communist North Korea invaded South Korea (June 1950).
  • People feared the worst, that communism was spreading and can threaten their “democracy” or worse, their capitalism and contributed to the appeal of McCarthyism by giving them a physical enemy in front of them that they can accuse and attack for why Communism is spreading
  • Political Gain
    • The Republican party, though not as severe or flippant as McCarthy, nevertheless did nothing to stop his tirade. They allowed McCarthy to do their dirty work for them and they themselves took the high road and benefitted from the political gain.
    • The Democrats had both the presidency and Congress since 1930 and Republicans wanted a way to weaken them so the best way at the time was to sow suspicions that their more liberal policies meant that they sympathised with Communists.
    • This also gave Republicans the ground to attack progressive policies like the New Deal and connected them to Communism, also Truman’s various internal improvement plans were struck down in the same way

Summary: Basically, this threat of accusation was all-pervasive and God help you if you get accused and named in the Red Channels because your reputation will be ruined and no one will listen to you even if you don’t get convicted by the HUAC. The Republican Party used this to intimidate and discredit their opponents and one of the ways you can get immunity is to name more names. Any protestation against the govt was seen as being traitorous and if anyone dared propose reforms, then they were communistically-inclined and would be under suspicion and possibly accused. No one knew if and when their name would come up and no one knew who they could trust… Sounds Stalinesque, doesn’t it?


(5) Compare and contrast United States foreign policy after the First World War and after the Second World War. Consider the periods 1919-1928 and 1945-1950. 

Not much to compare so I chose to just say straight out that foreign policy changed a lot between the two time periods and focused on the changes.

Synthesis: George Washington’s Farewell Address establishes the precedent of remaining neutral and staying out of world affairs, isolationists who advocated for staying neutral after WWI supported this

Contextualisation: The Red Scare after WWI and McCarthyism after WWII – people became more increasingly afraid of communism and believed that the US had to intervene as a “policy of containment”, similar to the fear of foreign ideas during WWI

Points:

After WWI — 

  • Neutrality and Isolationism during the 20s and 30s – Americans had felt like WWI had been a mistake
  • International financing (Dawes and Young Plan for Germany)
  • Washington Naval Conference with Japan, Great Britain and France and Italy- an attempt to keep some power since the US was not part of the League of Nations
  • Kellogg-Briand Pact – wanted US help if Germany attacked France but the US didn’t want that. This act took 60 nations to not turn to war as a solution.

After WWII —

  • US becomes more involved in world affairs after WWII – as the founding member of the UN and participating in the Yalta Conference
  • More aggressive and intrusive
  • Truman Doctrine – the US would provide political, military, and economic assistance to other democratic countries that were threatened by communism
  • Cold War, Korean War – US supports democracy and comes to South Korea’s aid when North Korea invades (The US is an interventionist)
  • Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program)-try to keep countries from falling to Communism

APUSH Unit VII Key Terms

1. suffragettes: Catt, Stanton, Paul, Mott

2. Treaty of Paris (1899)*

3. Conservative U.S. Supreme Court decisions: Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918); U.S. v E.C. Knight

4. “dollar diplomacy”

5. WWI: U.S. neutrality/freedom of the seas

6. child labor

7. Annexation of Hawaii

8. Hawaii/Dole/ Queen Lilioukalani

9. Spanish American War/causes

10. “Splendid little war”

11. Anti-Imperialist League

12. yellow journalism/Hearst/Pulitzer

13. The “White Man’s Burden”/Social Darwinism

14. The U.S.S. Maine

15. Teller Resolution

16. Platt Amendment

17. Emilio Aguinaldo/Filipino Revolt

18. Protectorate

19. Commonwealth

20. the Boxer Rebellion

21. Russo-Japanese War /TR’s Nobel Prize

22. TR’s “Gentleman’s Agreement”

23. Incorporated v. unincorporated possessions (Insular Cases)

24. The Panama Canal

25. The Roosevelt Corollary

26. Open Door Policy

27. “jingoism”

28. Jane Addams/Hull House/Settlement Houses

29. Booker T. Washington

30. W.E.B. DuBois

31. NAACP

32. Muckrakers and their works*: Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, Jacob Riis

33. Dept. of Commerce and Labor (Bureau of Corp.)

34. Bob LaFollette

35. Electoral reforms: initiative, referendum, recall, city manager, primary elections

36. Progressive Era Amendments (16-19)

37. Pure Food and Drug Act

38. Meat Inspection Act

39. United States v. Northern Securities Co.

40. “trust-busting”

41. United Mine Workers/anthracite coal strike

42. Governor’s Conference on Conservation

43. Tariff laws: Dingley (1897), Payne-Aldrich (1909), Underwood-Simmons (1913)

44. Federal Reserve System

45. Federal Trade Commission

46. Birth of a Nation (1915)

47. Our Country: Its Possible Future and Present Crisis (Josiah Strong)

48. militarism

49. nationalism, esp. the Balkans

50. Triple Alliance/Central Powers

51. Triple Entente/Allied Powers

52. “total war”

53. The Lusitania

54. Sussex Pledge

55. Zimmerman Note

56. Espionage and Sedition Acts

57. War Industries Board (other “war boards” too, Food Adm., National War Labor Board, etc.)

58. Committee on Public Information

59. Propaganda

60. ACLU

61. National self-determination

62. “Peace Without Victory”/Wilson’s War Message/14 Points Address

63. The Treaty of Versailles

64. The League of Nations

65. “Irreconciliables” and “Reservationists”

APUSH Unit V Essay Prep: The Civil War to the Early 1900s

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The 1860 Political Party

I have just three for this unit that are complete. The other three weren’t finished and I only got synthesis points for them so I’m not going to put them on here.

(1) Analyse the social, political, and economic forces of the 1840s and early 1850s that led to the emergence of the Republican Party.

Synthesis: Any other political party system could be this although I went for the Federalist party.

Contextualization: Dred Scott case

Points:

  • Social:
    • ” wave of consciousness” by which I mean the realisation that black people are actually people (gasp)
      • Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Frederick Douglas’s efforts (including his book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas)
    • Slave Power conspiracy- that an unproportionately small number of wealthy slaveholders has control of state gov’ts and is trying to take over the fed. gov’t
    • North’s feeling of superiority over South (lower rate of illiteracy, more developed industry and tech. etc) equals proof of the evils of slavery->argued for by Helper’s The Impending Crisis of the South but the rhetoric was purely in self-interest
    • Abolitionistic (and more moralistic) sentiments from the Second Great Awakening
    • Result: Turned Northerners from slavery and the South, naturally aligned with the Republicans’ views, Repubs also took in the fallout after the K-N Act killed the Whig party, taking on their values
  • Political:
    • Repeal of Missouri Compromise through the Nebraska-Kansas Act (one of the main catalysts to the formation of the Republican Party and it’s what undid the Whig parties)
      • Led to the disagreeable Lecompton Constitution in Kansas, Bleeding Kansas (“border ruffians, Missouri savages), encouraged by John Brown at Harpers Ferry
    • Also the Compromise of 1850 (Northerners especially tried to hinder attempts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, should be mentioned before the Kansas-Nebraska Act)
    • Whigs made way for the party because of divisions between Conscience Whigs and Cotton Whigs cause downfall of said party (can also be used for contextualization)
    • Result: Made slavery possible in territories and made Southern influences known in the North (Dred Scott and Fugitive Slave Act)->North resented it->slave power conspiracy->support for Republican Party
  • Economic:
  • Republican economic ideology fit Northern standards->free labor, slavery degraded honest labor, social mobility, equal opportunities for all etc etc
  • Republican platform of internal improvements and protective tariffs naturally appealed to Northern economic interest (you can include the National Banking Act here but make it clear that it occurred in the 1860s)
  • Republican promise to offer cheap land (led to the Homestead Act but you have to include the fact that it’s after the 1850s, 1862)
  • Mildly anti-immigrant (partially from the absorbed Know-Nothings) which matched northern sentiments at the time
  • Result: Republican Party had a very northern economic turn to it and that attracted a lot of followers (which is all-important because the North contained the winning number of electoral votes). Including how a lot of these policies are similar to what the Whigs were pushing is also a good idea.

(2) Analyze the effectiveness of political compromise in reducing sectional tensions in the period 1820-1861.

I recommend saying that while the earlier compromises were pretty effective, but as time went on, the later compromises became less and less effective.

Synthesis: 3/5th Compromise

Contextualization: You can us what inflamed the sectional tensions in the first place, Western expansion. You can expand on what made people want to move West and what policies made Western expansion possible etc etc.

Points:

  • Missouri Compromise (1820)
    • Maintains balance of slave and free states (Missouri as slave, Maine as free)
    • Drew the 36 30 line prohibiting slavery above it
    • Kept relative peace for 30 years
  • Compromise Tariff of 1833
    • Gov’t’s answer to the nullification crisis (South Carolina) over the Tariff of Abominations (1828)
    • Southern states extremely unhappy because the tariff favoured North and made things more expensive for the South
    • The new Tariff would reduce tariffs gradually to 1816 levels
    • Ended the Crisis
  • Compromise of 1850
    • Failed as the Omnibus Bill
    • Stephen Douglas passes through individual parts-2 relevant points:
      • Admitted California as free state(tipped the balance of free vs slave states)
      • Fugitive Slave Act(unpopular among Northerners, often ignored)
    • Was effective in the immediate timeframe, however, it introduced the concept of popular sovereignty which = disaster->N-K Act & Bleeding Kansas and the main objection of the Republican Party->President Lincoln->Civil War
  • Nebraska-Kansas Act (1854)
    • Was designed to appeal to both North and South in giving a terr.’s residents to choose if they become pro or anti slavery (& opened a railroad route to West)
    • Repealed Missouri Compromise-Northerners, specifically Republicans (<ree soilers) hated it
    • Major catalyst in the formation of Republican party (party formed same year)
    • Compromise was dead
  • Then, you have Crittenden which just failed… miserably.

(3) Evaluate the extent to which the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) marked a turning point in the debate over slavery in the United States, analysing what changed and what stayed the same from the period before the war to the period after it.

Synthesis: Missouri Compromise of 1829

Contextualization: The belief in Manifest Destiny and how that played into the War

Points: 

  • Before:
    • Manifest Destiny as being the main cause for the M-A War (Prez Polk)
    • Missouri Compromise having solved the slavery question
      • Maintain balance of free vs slave states
      • Clearly marked out slave and non-slave land
    • Manifest Destiny and the Missouri Compromise kept tensions in check. Say also that since slavery was legal, abolitionists had only moral arguments. After the war, a new target emerged: slavery in the territories (which, of course, renewed the debate over slavery).
    • Gag rule effectively kept Congress from acting on the slavery question (1836)
    • Fred Douglas and Garrison’s Liberator gave renewed vigor to abolitionists to no result
  • During and After:
    • Whigs start dividing over the War (northern Whigs opposed it)
    • More persistent anti-slavery efforts (broke gag rule)
      • Wilmot Proviso (1846-48)
      • Popular Sovereignty (a break from Missouri Compromise after 30 years)
        • Compromise of 1850
          • Permanently tipped the balance to free states
          • Slavery question had a visible, “provoking” effect with the Fugitive Slave Act
          • Lead to K-N Act->Formation of Republican Party (1854)
    • slavery question further confronted by Dred Scott case (1857)

What You Need to Know for APUSH

Alright, here is the article I promised. This article is a continuation of another article on this blog called “Should I take APUSH?“. If you didn’t read it yet and you’re not sure whether or not you should take APUSH, check it out. Today, I’m going to go over the basic structure of this class and what kinds of things you are expected to know. To those who came from on-level World, pay attention.

Unit Essays/LEQs

First off, the unit essays. I post essay prep for most units of APUSH on this blog and you can find them here. At the end of each unit (which lasts for about a month each, depending on your teacher), you’re expected to be able to write an in-depth essay on the prompt in question. There are several types, some of which I’ll describe here:

  •  Compare and contrast: It is helpful to clearly state whether the items being compared are more similar or more different in your thesis and expand on that in your body paragraphs. This way, if you have fewer points for how similar/different the items are to each other, you’ve already made your point that they were more similar/different. Also, tie in every attribute of the two things being compared to a larger theme. For example, if you’re comparing and contrasting Teddy Roosevelt’s foreign policies vs Woodrow Wilson’s, instead of comparing each thing they did separately, tie it in to the theme that both of them sought to exert American influence internationally although they had very different methods of doing so. This helps you keep focus and it makes writing a conclusion much easier.
  • Evaluate the impact: This question requires you to not only list out what happened as the result of something, but also need to say just how impactful it is. If it’s a question about the impact of technological innovation during the Market Revolution, you have to list out new inventions and methods and also how it ties in to the larger movement, ie the beginning of Northern industrialisation and Southern specialisation that was part of the Market Revolution.
  • Relative Importance: There are also some people who miss the point of this type of essay and as a result, they get points docked. This type of essay prompt requires you to say which event is more relevant to the event of something else. If it asks you to evaluate the relative importance of foreign and domestic affairs in 1790s American politics, list and explain what foreign and domestic affairs there were and then talk about the policies that were passed in the 1790s and say whether foreign or domestic affairs were more influential in said politics.
  • Really though, all you need is to read the prompt. Do what it tells you to do and you should be fine. Be aware of dates because some prompts have time restrictions (ie 1860s to 1920s) and you can’t use events that occur outside the time period (or else you might get points taken off).

In those essays, you also need a synthesis point, a thesis and a contextualization point to get a 100%. The synthesis point requires you to connect the current prompt to another time period (as a rule of thumb, pick something that’s twenty years from the time period in question) and explain why the two are similar. If the question asks for what impacted America’s decision to join WWI, you can use the War of 1812 as a synthesis point and then lay out the similarities (namely, naval aggravation).

For the thesis, you need to completely answer all aspects of the question. Like the examples I gave you above in the types of essays you’ll get, be aware of what the prompt is asking you and make sure you address all parts of the question.

For contextualization, you need to expand on what else is happening in the same time period as the question. If I use the example above in the synthesis point paragraph and I used economic interest and German naval policy as reasons for the US entering WWI, then I could use Allied propaganda or Wilson’s idealism as an expansion on another possible reason for why the US entered the war.

SAQ

These are short answer questions and you’re going to see several of them on the AP exam. Basically, what the SAQ does is it usually gives you a document, whether it’s a piece of text or a picture, and it asks you to describe what it means, what the context is and how it figures into the bigger patterns of US history and things like that. There are slightly different questions depending on what they give you but that’s the general idea. Don’t spend time on trying to cram in too many details; for these, just bring up one solid detail for each question and explain it. There are usually three questions for one document. Since the AP Exam is timed, you shouldn’t spend too much time on the SAQs. Around fifteen minutes each is what you’re trying to aim for. Your teacher might hand these out in class as practice for the AP exam.

DBQ

DBQs, in my opinion, are the easiest to write because you don’t need to pull all the information from your brain and provide an in-depth analysis like on a full-blown long essay question but you also have more freedom on what you can write than on an SAQ. Basically, for this type of essay, you get a packet of documents (like the name of the essay says, it’s a document-based question) and you have to answer the prompt using the information from the documents. To get full points, you also need contextualization, a thesis and a synthesis point. Since this is a DBQ, you’ll also need to use the majority of documents and be able to provide information beyond the documents for some of them.

For example, if there are nine documents, you need to use seven in your essay and provide information beyond the document for four of them. What I mean by information beyond the document is, well, exactly what it says. For example, in the first unit, a possible DBQ packet contains a graph that tells you the names of the people on ships that came to Virginia or Massachusetts during the colonial age. By looking at their names and ages, you can tell that many more families and older people came to Massachusetts vs Virginia. Information beyond the document (sometimes called evidence beyond the document) would be something like how the people who went to Massachusetts were Puritans and were looking to establish their way of life away from the religious oppression of England and thus, brought their whole families along in the interest of long-term establishment.

Discussion Groups

Discussion groups are basically just debates; you get a stance on a topic and the information to argue your side. My teacher first has us split into groups of four and gives us a list of debate topics pertaining to the time period we’re studying and tells us to choose a topic to debate. When we decide our topic, we get a packet that details the arguments to the yes and no sides of the debate. The rubric has a written and speaking part so to get full points, you need to have a thesis paragraph prepared complete with a synthesis point as well as a basic outline detailing your argument against the opposing side. Then, to get the speaking part of the grade, you just need to present all the points of your argument, be persuasive about it and be able to come up with good rebuttals and you’re set.

Reading

There is assigned reading every unit from the textbook that usually spans anywhere from 60 to over 100 pages but I usually never do it. Some of my friends at other schools say that their teacher gives out quizzes to make sure they read every night but since my teacher doesn’t and I can get my information elsewhere, I just don’t do my textbook reading. Of course, reading the textbook is the surest way to get the information you’d need for the unit but it’s not always necessary depending on your teacher and how they structure their class so you’ll just have to figure that out for yourself.

There are also several books that you might have to read throughout the school year. This year, my teacher had us read Founding Brothers and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas during the first semester. I know that he also occasionally has his students read a book about the Revolutionary War and Paul Revere. Again, this differs between teachers and schools, but these readings you obviously have to do and there’s usually some sort of assessment at the end of it. For Founding Brothers, we got a series of short-answer questions about the book and what it meant and for the Narrative, we had to write an LEQ about how Frederick Douglas tries to dispel stereotypes about black people in his book and how his book might be considered “literary”. While it’s true that you need to be a good writer to do well in APUSH, your ability to understand and analyse what you read is way more important.

Homework

I’m not sure how other teachers do it, but besides the (optional) textbook reading and the occasional reading assignments, there is no homework. Whatever work you decide to do for APUSH is mostly optional and of the preparatory nature rather than you having to turn it in for a grade. To break it down, this is my usual MO when it comes to tackling each unit:

  • Listen to teacher lectures
  • Do classwork (ie document study– to provide a more in-depth, primary-source view of the time period)
  • Do essay prep for unit essays (again, I upload essay prep on this blog)
  • Look at the Key Terms list (I also have key terms on this blog but there are no definitions; if you guys want me to upload definitions, tell me. If there are enough requests, I might upload definitions as well.)
  • Watch the corresponding episodes of Crash Course US History
  • If applicable, finish reading assignments and prepare for discussion groups

Conclusion

That’s all. I think APUSH is challenging but if you prepare and listen during class, you should be fine. If you lay out a plan for each unit and put aside time to study exclusively for APUSH, then even better. I myself am not a good student; I do minimal work and I finish assignments last-minute but I have a good memory and I can absorb material really fast so my shortcomings are covered by my strengths and I got an A+ in my first semester of APUSH. So you just need to know yourself and your limitations and work with your teacher and counselor to see what works the best for you.

If you have any general questions, drop us a line and we’ll do our best to answer. Talk to you later.

Featured Image from Parthenon Graphics

How You Can Help People Through Blogging

 

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Aww, look at all these smiley faces!

 

Well, there’s a reason you clicked on this article; you either want to write a blog or want someone else to write a blog to help you. Either way, you’re interested in blogs. So there, I just drew up a simple equation: you plus a blog on one side and your potential audience on the other. The question is, then, who is going to be on the other side?

The answer to that depends on you as a contributor to the blog, of course. But to motivate you further, I’m going to give you some reasons why you would want to blog. More specifically, how you blogging can help other people. Here are four ways:

1. Share Your Experiences

You know those days when you’re feeling down? Or those days when you feel like something just clicked for you? Well, either way, someone else out there might have gone through the same experience or maybe want to go through the same experience. If you have knowledge you think can be valuable to someone, share it and someone just might reply with a “Same!”.

2. Help Satisfy Global Gross Curiosity

You didn’t know the GGC was a thing? Well now you know! And guess what? You can help satisfy the curiosity of people worldwide if only you’d start a blog! How awesome is that? Choose interesting topics that don’t yield many satisfying results on Google and teach anyone who comes your way about something even Google isn’t very knowledgeable about. How’s that for your resume?

3. Speak Your Mind

You have thoughts and opinions on a lot of things. In fact, you have thoughts and opinions on pretty much everything you see and know. But sometimes, you feel like you need someone to listen to those thoughts and opinions. Start a blog and depending on what your thoughts and opinions are on, maybe lots of people would love to hear what you have to say. This can help build awareness around certain subjects and form communities around them. Keep in mind, this can go either way (either goodly or badly) and depending on the topic of choice, you may not want to go down this route.

4. Spread the Goodness

By goodness, I mean video games, movies, books, recipes etc. etc. If you like something, share it with other people so that they can enjoy it too! You just might save someone from being fatally bored, who knows. You might also be responsible for some hot new trend and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that it was you who brought it into existence. If nothing else, sharing is caring.

I just gave you several reasons why you should blog. Now go forth, enlightened one, and work your bloggerly magic!

Should I Take APUSH?

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After this year, I never want to see this cover ever again.

Now is the time when high schools start handing out course verification sheets and you, being an AP World student (or not), can’t decide on whether or not to take APUSH next year. Of course, that depends on your abilities and it depends on the APUSH teacher as well. My school happens to have a teacher that has a 90% pass rate on the APUSH AP exam and 75% of his students score a four or higher. That said, there are only 60 students in all of APUSH this year (at our school) compared to the 40% of freshmen going into AP World.

Numbers aside, if you’re coming from AP World, things are going to definitely be easier for you. If you didn’t come from AP World, well, I guess I’ll have to create an article detailing what you need to know for APUSH. Whenever I’m finished with the article, this will be the link. I don’t know how other schools and other teachers teach APUSH but my teacher uses primarily lectures and document studies. Therefore, there is “no” homework and little classwork. The reason I put the quotations around no is because we have to do essay prep for each unit’s essays (the first of which linked to here) and we have discussion groups (read: debate) that we have to research for and sometimes, we need to read a book. The textbook reading is recommended but I almost never do it because my teacher goes over everything anyway and I can learn what I missed from Crash Course US History or from my essay prep. However, because of this relative lack of homework and classwork, if you mess up on a test or essay, you’re going to find it hard to get your grade back up.

Everything is relatively easy except for the content itself. Being in a smaller timeframe than world history, US history is much more detailed and you’re required to know the cause and effects of everything as well as be aware of who is president at what time, what happened, how it happened, what it affected, who is involved and how it ties in to any larger patterns occurring throughout US history. But if you have a good head for details and have a decent ability to absorb and retain information (aka memory), then you’re good to go. Writing skills isn’t rated too highly as a necessary skill because you’re basically writing informative essays, but it really does help a lot if you can write well.

If you are one of those hardworking students that are on top of everything, APUSH is the right class for you. It’s technically not much work but it kinda is a lot of work because the work is thoughtful and you can’t just fill in the blanks or anything like that. But if you’ve struggled in AP World, APUSH isn’t going to be right for you. If you’re taking three or more other APs in the same year, it’s also probably not a good idea to take APUSH on top of that. If you like APs that aren’t too hard, then APUSH is definitely not for you. You need to put real effort into the class and if you’re just planning on coasting along with someone else’s help, you are going to fail. Take another AP instead. And depending on your teacher, you might pass the class but not the AP exam so take your teacher’s success statistics into consideration as well. You can ask your counselor or the APUSH teacher for that.

And, of course, your school has a set of recommended prerequisites for each AP class and if you fit the prerequisites, then you have a good chance at doing well in the class. However, what the prerequisites don’t cover is the student’s coping ability and their time management skills. This class is highly stressful for me but I am able to handle being under pressure. I have horrible time management skills but I have a good memory and am able to absorb and understand material really fast. So you just really have to know your own capabilities in terms of being able to handle not just the work and content but also how you work and learn. I don’t recommend you waive into the class, but if you do, make sure you’re prepared to put a lot of effort into the class.

I personally was recommended for APUSH and I came into the class from on-level World. I got a 90% this past semester in the class without the extra seven fluff points (with the fluff points would obviously make it 97%). That goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to come from AP World to succeed in APUSH, however, I’ve got to tell you I had a rough first two months in the class where I failed my first two essays. One of my friends thought she could do well in the class and was offended that she wasn’t recommended by our World History teacher to take APUSH and so, she waived into the class instead. She hasn’t been doing so well since then. So take your teacher recommendations seriously because what the recommended prerequisites lack in the human factor, your teacher makes up for in their recommendations.

And that’s all. If you have any general questions about the class, please leave a comment below or drop us a line at whentheskyisovercast@gmail.com. I’ll talk to you later.

This is an example of what a unit syllabus looks like in my APUSH class: Unit I Syllabus

For further help, this is a good website for a general look at what you need to know for a given unit in APUSH.