Scenes From My Son Studying For His AP Exams

Scene 1, History AP:  My son asked me how WWII ended the Depression.  I said that the draft soaked up a lot of excess workers, which reduced unemployment, and British buying for the war helped our economy but that the war generally destroyed rather than created wealth.  He said, "Dad, you can't tell it to me that way.  The guy grading the AP is going to be a Keynesian."  So we talked multipliers and aggregate demand.

Scene 2, Spanish AP:  My son hands me a list of Spanish words he is trying to learn.  They are the Spanish words for things like "social justice,"  "poverty", "exploitation", etc.  I told him it was an odd selection of words.  He said that nearly every Spanish essay in every Spanish textbook he had ever had were about revolution and stopping the rich from exploiting the poor and fighting global warming.  So he wanted to be prepared for a similar topic on the AP.    After the test, I remembered this conversation and asked him what the essay was.  He said the topic was "show why the government of poor countries should give free bicycles to the poor to fight global warming."


  1. Don:

    They should have the Spanish portion of the book written by a Chilean. That might just solve both problems :^).

  2. Caroline:

    (going to be a Keynesian! ha. smart kid)

    Scene 1 + Scene 2 is why my kids are being educated at home. It's a lot of work just culling the BS propaganda material from their studies.

  3. Brad Warbiany:

    My cousin is a senior in HS and had to write an opinion paper on why gas prices are high. I sent him a bunch of articles (including one or two of yours), giving him all the ammunition he needed to really make a case. But I told him one thing -- if you think your teacher wants you to argue that it's all the fault of speculators, it's probably better to spoon-feed him what he wants to hear.

    He got back to me and said he thought that's what the teacher wanted, so I had to start google-searching the articles that all blame the Koch brothers and other evil henchmen! It felt dirty.

    (Actually, part of me wants to write a blog post crafting a credible argument that blames speculators. Not that I believe it, but the challenge of credibly arguing the point would be a really interesting task.)

  4. TimB:

    I've been having a similar conversation with my son who is taking his first AP test today, Government and Politics. See the example question from the test below.

    2 . All of the following contribute to the success of incumbent members of Congress
    in election campaigns except:
    (a) Incumbents usually raise more campaign funds than do their challengers .
    (b) Incumbents tend to understand national issues better than do their challengers .
    (c) Incumbents are usually better known to voters than are their challengers .
    (d) Incumbents can use legislative staff to perform campaign services .
    (e) Incumbents often sit on committees that permit them to serve district interests

    The official "correct" answer is (d). I initially answered (b), knowing that incumbents tend to get converted to a Washington DC mindset, surrounded by bureaucrats, lobbyists, and other politicians, and also knowing that, although (d) may not be legal, it is done all the time.

    So we talked about making sure to answer questions from the test preparers point of view, and the difference between how things are supposed to work and how they work in reality.

  5. NormD:

    We had an AuPair living with us who was taking a require prerequisite course in Women's Studies at a local college She ask my help on an essay she was writing on the subject "How I Have Been Oppressed Because I am Am a Woman". I was confused. I asked her if she felt oppressed. Nope. Long silence. I was clear to her that if she did not explain how she was oppressed she "knew" she would fail the course.

  6. Vitaeus:

    I remember taking AP classes in high school many years ago, the teachers encouraged discussions of the bias the writers of the various texts used had. Apparently this is a dead subject in our modern versions.

  7. Erik Carlseen:

    The government hasn't just jumped the shark in public school propaganda, it's now in geosynchronous orbit above the shark.

    Absolutely disgusting. End public schools.

  8. DrTorch:

    Once again, this is can be tied to the higher ed bubble. The push for students to get into "good" colleges is why your son, and others, are afraid to write essays that they believe in.

    I'm a bit disappointed, I think the more important lesson is to write the truth. Grades be damned. College be damned if need be.

    If people can't stand up to deceit on such a small scale, how can they be expected to when the scale is grand?

  9. Orion:

    I think you can combine the Spanish and History AP into one: Simply calculate the warming trend of the earth based on the additional population that would have survived had WW 2 not happened. Don't have accurate numbers? No problem, just make them up, that's what everyone else does. Finally, use those numbers to calculate how many more free bicycles would need to be provided to the populations of poor countries due to that increase in global warming. Do it all in Spanish and you have your history, Spanish, and Math AP all taken care of.

  10. Foxfier:

    Orion, you miss a possible landmind: do you assume the Holocaust never happened, assume none of the Nazi mass-killings happened, assume none of the pre-WWII killing happened, or assume they were all totally successful?

  11. Orion:

    Ah ha, my presumption, is sort of like a holocaust denier-none of it happened. Of course, the question is: How would the great depression have ever ended without the war?

  12. Another guy named Dan:

    I wonder what the grade would be if you recommended that the government should donate land to any entrepeneaur who would open a factory assembling bicycles localy, and perhaps provide the seed money to a micro-cap financing scheme to allow people to purchase their own bicycles.

    that way at least some of the value-add stays in the local economy, more people get bicycles in a way that does not reward government dependence, and whatever dubious global warming benefits happen at a lower net cost. The major point of value creation in the bike business today is likely not at the point of assembly, but at the point where commodity feedstocs of aluminum sheet and tubing are converted into the components. Unless you're able to create the infrastructure for alluminum casting, extruding, and machining locally, most of the capex and price is going to end up in China, Viet Nam, or some other low-wage country that has already beaten you to the trough.

    Then again if a country is poor enough that people can't afford bicycles, it is also likely a net food importer, so adding caloric output by having people ride bikes would likely result in more growing of food in areas where agriculture is already heavily petroleum-based, negating the local transportation reduction in fossil fuels use.

  13. Ryan:

    TimB, as a kid who just took AP Gov last year and received a five, the correct answer is not (d). It's (c). Any AP Gov prep book would have that in it, you might want to check your review material.

  14. blokeinfrance:

    Maybe the examiners are just checking for pure intellectual ability (some hope) along the same lines as a favourite punishment from my schooldays: "Describe, in not less than 1,000 words, the inside of a ping-pong ball".

  15. Dr. T:

    Public school education bottom line: To get a top grade on a subjective examination, you have to agree with left-wing, "progressive" ignoramuses (because educators are a subset of that category of people).

    I once visited a web site that featured junior high school students' English essays that met all the following criteria: 1. Didn't address the assigned topic, 2. Had many spelling errors, 3. Had atrociously bad grammar, 4. Failed to follow the standard structure for the essay, and 5. Received A grades because the teachers liked what the students said.

  16. rxc:

    Gramsci combined with Francis Xavier. Get your message out into the populace early and often, and make sure you indoctrinate the teachers and the students they teach. Keep at it with teachers who cannot be fired, and eventually the entire society thinks the way you want them to think.

  17. Chris A:

    I recall on my AP US History test in high school one of the essays (for which you have something like 7 or 8 pieces of "evidence" to use in your argument) involved a similar question to the first: something like "What ended the Great Depression?". Most of the evidence was obviously intended to show that the New Deal ended the depression. There was one lone graph that showed farm produce sales growing sharply at the onset of WWII. I used this and argued that WWII thus ended the depression, and did pretty well on the test.

    Ironically now I don't believe either of those ended the depression. Too bad the essays are not more viewpoint neutral.

  18. Chris L:


    Your au pair was oppressed because, as a woman, she was required to claim that she was oppressed in order to pass her class.

  19. Chris:

    Funny how you don't see any uproar about the "cultural bias" of these tests

  20. Dan:

    There is a lot of BS being pushed by the left in education, no doubt. But to me, the scarier BS is being pushed by the right. Creationism, prayer in schools, etc.

  21. Kevin Baker:

    To me, Dan, they're equally bad. Here's a quote from a piece by PJM contributor Zombie back in August of last year:

    "Our kids have become cannon fodder for two rival ideologies battling to control America’s future.

    "In one camp are conservative Christians and their champion, the Texas State Board of Education; in the other are politically radical multiculturalists and their de facto champion, President Barack Obama. The two competing visions couldn’t be more different. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Unfortunately, whichever side wins — your kid ends up losing.

    "That’s because this war is for the power to dictate what our children are taught — and, by extension, how future generations of Americans will view the world. Long gone are the days when classrooms were for learning: now each side sees the public school system as a vast indoctrination camp in which future culture-warriors are trained. The problem is, two diametrically opposed philosophies are struggling for supremacy, and neither is willing to give an inch, so the end result is extremism, no matter which side temporarily comes out on top.

    "Both visions are grotesque and unacceptable — and yet they are currently the only two choices on the national menu. Which shall it be, sir: Brainwashing Fricassee, or a Fried Ignorance Sandwich?"

    There is no "lesser evil" here.

    But I'm actually more concerned about Paolo Friere's "Critical Pedagogy" and the Leftism it pushes. It's subtler than the Right-wing's holy-rollerism, and a lot more seductive. After all, who can be against "Social Justice"?

    Until someone points out: "Justice is justice, whereas 'social justice' is code for one set of rules for the rich, another for the poor; one set for whites, another set for minorities; one set for straight men, another for women and gays. In short, it's the opposite of actual justice."

  22. gordon:

    there'd be no problem with creationism if education actually had anything to do with critical thinking.

  23. Sendarius:


    Prayer in schools - is there a push for that to be MANDATORY?

    I really do not care if a group of people want to beg their imaginary friend to make things all better, and so long as it isn't COMPULSORY for you to do it, neither should you.

  24. dearieme:

    A friend told me once that the departments of Spanish in the British universities were hotbeds of Marxism.

  25. Old Soldier:

    WWII didn't end the Depression - it just allowed us to outsource unemployment and put it on hold.

    What ended the Depression was the death of President-for-Life FDR. Shortly after his death, the planned post-war New Deal 2 was canceled by Congress.

    With FDR's economic interference and tinkering over and much of our overseas competition in rubble, American business took off again.

  26. DrTorch:

    It's the 19th C fairy tale of Darwinian evolution that has done much to undermine critical thinking.

    It's filled w/ logical fallacies to fill in the gaps.

    And all labeled as "science".

    No wonder the climate scientists have had such an easy time influencing weak minds.

  27. Russ Finley:

    I'm with Dan. If your teacher is highly conservative or progressive, he/she will bias what is taught or emphasized by their world views. If you are going to call the kettle black you may as well admit the pot is black as well.

    I can hardly tell which is pure sarcasm and which is for real with some of the comments I find at this blog.

    19th C fairy tale of Darwinian evolution?

    DrTorch is one of three things:

    1) A master of sarcasm.
    2) A conservative who feels that he has found a soul mate with this blog author.
    3) A progressive troll using that moniker to try to make conservatives look like idiots.

    The world does not split into two poorly defined groups of human beings--conservatives and progressives. We are all a mix of all of the values each group purports to hold. The problems arise when we let our genetic wiring lead us to identify with a given group, even if it does not really exist except as a caricature in our minds.

    In Ridley's book "Sex and the evolution of human nature" he gives examples of how human beings will always form up into rival groups. During the American civil war the Republican party (the only party in the north) immediately began to splinter into two parties. Given time they would have adopted unique names to identify themselves. Group identity is more a case of instinct than rational choice.


  28. CCamp:

    Atlas Shrugged should be on the required reading list.