Course Description

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This course is designed to provide students with the factual knowledge and analytic skills necessary to deal critically with problems and materials in American history. The class is taught with the assumption that students enrolled will attempt the College Board Advanced Placement National Examination in May. Hence, this is essentially a college-level course, and is therefore conducted in that spirit. This class prepares students for intermediate and advanced college courses by placing demands upon them equivalent to those made by full-year introductory college courses. While there is little worthwhile to be gained by rote memorization of dates and names and events in an encyclopedic manner, this class will nevertheless expose students to vast historical content. Once the foundation of data has been established, the intent is to link one event to another, and again to yet another. In other words, beyond the triviality of a bunch of historical facts exist ingredients which combine to make certain dates and people and events so historically impacting. The causal matter may take several forms—sometimes it can be relatively mundane, while in other cases it will be very exciting or quite tragic or extremely humorous or downright unbelievable!

Although there are no absolute prerequisites for admission to this course, simple logic dictates that students should be somewhat academically accomplished (i.e., possess a relatively high GPA), have some degree of interest in learning American history, and be willing to extend the extra time necessary for adequate consumption of knowledge. For success in this class, the study process needs to be meticulously thorough. Because this course is so very demanding, strenuous extra-curricular or employment schedules could possibly be a hindrance. Nationwide, APUSH has traditionally been dominated by juniors, and for several years Stevens High School followed suit. Recently, however, APUSH at RCSHS has transitioned to heavy sophomore enrollment, which tends to increase the already huge inherent challenge of successful APUSH navigation.

The preferred course textbook is John Garraty's The American Nation (the latter few editions have been co-authored with Mark Carnes). Found in countless college history classrooms around the country, it presents a superb political history of the United States. The school district supplies every student with a book. Many students, however, prefer to own a personal copy. Used books are generally not difficult to find, either through a local retail or college bookstore, from a former APUSH student, or via one of the various discount book outlets or auction networks on the Internet. (It is not imperative to purchase the book new; any recent edition will suffice.) There are some acceptable textbook alternatives. Two of the instructor's favorites are The Unfinished Nation by Alan Brinkley and A People and a Nation by Mary Beth Norton et al. Lectures will both supplement and extend the reading material. An intimate relationship with Garraty and mindful attention to lecture are absolute musts for success in this course. To minimize either would be devastating.

Students are held responsible for satisfying each of the following learning objectives. The degree to which students master each requirement largely determines their final grades. Upon successful completion of this course, students will:
  • Draw upon a reservoir of systematic factual knowledge in order to exercise analytic skills intelligently;
  • Learn to take notes from both printed materials and lectures or discussions, compose essay responses, and write analytical and research papers;
  • Transcend basic fact recall (otherwise known as pure memorization) to higher levels of knowledge (such as synthesis, analysis, and evaluation);
  • Learn to assess historical materials—their relevance to a given interpretive problem, their reliability, and their importance—and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship;
  • Assess the relevance and significance of available data in relation to a specific issue, based on the students' personal knowledge bank compiled about that issue;
  • Analyze and interpret primary sources, including documentary material, statistical tables, maps, and pictorial and graphic evidence of historical events;
  • Develop the skills necessary to arrive at knowledgeable conclusions and anticipate future developments on the basis of an informed judgment;
  • Present reasons for conclusions and supportive evidence clearly and persuasively in essay format;
  • Express themselves with clarity and precision and know how to cite sources and credit the phrases and ideas of others; and
  • Appreciate the value of continued knowledge in the assessment of any issue, and respect the right, of self and others, to express a different point of view, or to change opinion based on increased knowledge.

It is somewhat expected that all students will take the College Board Advanced Placement National Examination at the conclusion of the course. Thus, success on that exam is the ultimate goal of this class. Stevens High School has a record of performing well on the test; overall results well exceed the national norm. This does not happen by accident. It comes through a continual and consistent effort, starting on the first day of class. Based on the test score, factored with the university selected to attend upon graduation from high school, students may qualify for college credit. Please click here for additional information regarding the National Exam. Since the course was introduced in Rapid City, Stevens High School students, as a direct result of their enrollment in APUSH and performance on the year-end National Exam, have earned credit at numerous colleges and universities around the nation. The following list is partial.
  • Arizona State
  • Augustana (SD)
  • Baylor
  • Black Hills State (SD)
  • Boise State
  • Brigham Young
  • Brown
  • Colorado
  • Colorado State
  • Cornell
  • Creighton
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Eastern Washington
  • George Washington
  • Georgetown
  • Gonzaga
  • Harvard
  • Iowa
  • Iowa State
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Michigan State
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • MIT
  • Montana
  • Montana State
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Northeastern
  • Northern Colorado
  • Northern State (SD)
  • Oregon
  • Oregon State
  • Pennsylvania
  • Princeton
  • Purdue
  • Seton Hall
  • South Dakota
  • South Dakota Mines
  • South Dakota State
  • Stanford
  • Texas Tech
  • UCLA
  • USC
  • Utah
  • Vassar
  • Vanderbilt
  • Virginia
  • Wake Forest
  • Washington
  • Western Washington
  • William and Mary
  • Wisconsin
  • Wooster (OH)
  • Wyoming
  • Yale

Students are not presented with a cumbersome list of rules and regulations. Instead, one very simple concept applies nicely to any given situation. This classroom will value respect, responsibility, and reality; and avoid enabling, entitlement, and excuses. Beyond, the most important thing for students to remember is that all rules and regulations imposed by the Stevens High School administration apply to this classroom. Any deviation from those policies is not supposed to happen. The "academic honor code" is in effect to its fullest extent in this class. Violations thereof will be dealt with aggressively. Please click here for a slightly expanded version of classroom protocol.

Students are expected to assume a major responsibility in this course. This responsibility begins on day one and terminates with the National Exam, operating without interruption during that period. It must be constant and consistent. In short, the burden of personal success or failure rests predominantly with each student. Students enrolled in this class should carry a solid academic record (especially throughout the social studies and writing/composition classes), have the ability to manage time effectively, be adept at self-directed study, possess a strong sense of personal accountability, make attendance a priority, and require no behavior supervision. Shortcomings in just one of these areas place students in a risky position and could likely mean trouble ahead.

Over the nearly 25 years this course has existed at Stevens High School, the overwhelming majority of students have met with success. It is the professional obligation of the instructor to guide students' readiness for the National Exam, and further, to evaluate students during that preparation process. Through the years, the instructor has achieved a certain level of professional experience and expertise. You can click here to view instructor's credentials. Students can expect full honesty and fairness in evaluation of individual progress throughout the school year. Sincere attention to recommendations issued by the instructor will place students in an optimum position to score well on the exam. Students are strongly urged to make the best of this opportunity. Of course, the ultimate responsibility for test scores lies with each student. Students should not hesitate to contact the instructor if assistance in any manner pertaining to this course is desired. Although instructor availability is frequent (before, during, and after school), sometimes an immediate conversation is simply not possible. In such cases, an appointment can be determined for the near future which can accommodate schedules of both parties. No after-hours telephone calls to instructor's residence, please, except in rare cases of genuine emergency.

Course Syllabus | Grading Scheme | Summer Preparatory Work | College Board National Exam