AP Style


Of Armstrong, tattoos and facts you can use

“Because of his fame, George Washington was well known.”

“Soldiers depended on fishing to provide bread and milk.”

“The French and Indian War ended Manifest Destiny, so the colonists moved west and manifested the best they could.”

Warren Hierl, AP Institute consultant and teacher, begins his morning class on a light note with student bloopers and outtakes illuminated onscreen behind him in Chambers Room 2164.

It’s the third morning of the weeklong summer AP Institute, sponsored by the College Board Southern Regional Office and Davidson College. High school teachers who attend the institute work with College Board-approved consultants and Davidson faculty on curriculum content and teaching strategies.

“The British thought of the colonies as their ATM machine.”

“Does that one get a synthesis point?” one teacher asks, to appreciative chuckles.

Cue discussion of the AP “scoring rubric,” which is new and supposedly improved this year. It assigns 0-1 point for “thesis,” 0-2 points for “evidence and argument,” 0-2 points for “continuity and change” and 0-1 for “synthesis.”

So, six points of standardization, accompanied by a training form that navigates like a 1040, for a task that is fundamentally subjective.

Prompt, example, rationale. Prompt, example, rationale.

“Stick with it,” Hierl encourages conspiratorially.While metrics and measurementand data may have the ascending hand in today’s education industry as elsewhere, the question remains: “What makes a good essay?”

Is determining the answer to that question a holistic task, or an analytical one?

Yes, it is!

Some calls are easier than others.

“Louis Armstrong landed on the moon.”

“Adults feared nuclear attacks, while teenaged boys tried to convince teenaged girls to be loose.”

“A taste of liberty can make me crave a fountain flowing with freedom.” (“That’s a tattoo, right there,” quipped one teacher.)

What good is freedom if you have to fight for it?”

Teachers rule.


About Author

John Syme '85

Senior Writer John Syme graduated from Davidson with a French degree in 1985. After gigs in newspaper, advertising, translation in France and cross-country travel writing in the United States, he returned to alma mater in 2001. He has no immediate plans to graduate again.

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