Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Civil War - pt 1.

In another post, I wrote about how working at adds-and-drops had it's hidden benefits.  One of the benefits was the ability to snag a very popular history class.  One of the student magazines had listed the most popular professors and the classes they taught.  One caught my eye, it was a two-semester class that dealt with the American Civil War.  There was a tiny caveat.  Written on the last line, in the course manual (which used to be the size of a small town phone book), was the warning that this class was meant for juniors and seniors.  In other words, it was reserved (mostly) for history majors or those who had proved their worth in lasting more than 2 years at the Mega-lo-University.

You know me, one of my mottos is that it's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

I snagged the first course - which covered the years leading up to the war.  The second course concerned the war, and it's aftermath.  The Civil War is intriguing to me because it is historical, of course.  It involves military battles, another plus for me.  But mostly, it's about one part of the country, in it's entirety, fighting the other half.  Relatives, depending on where they physically resided, fighting each other side on the same battle lines.  But mostly, one thing I still think, was that the Civil War still has long-lingering effects that may never be resolved.  There is still racism cloaked under the code word "state's rights".  There are still cases where they argue about the right to vote, still today.

The class was indeed, interesting.  The professor was a very good lecturer.  He came out and just told us that the before and after of the Civil War (before the fighting) was really what interested him.  Yes, he covered key battles (in the second semester course), but really he wasn't a military history wonk (like I am).  What was really his area of concentration was the social and economic causes of the Civil War and the social and economic aftermath of the war.  That's what he wanted to focus on.

The final for each course, was of course, all essay.  He didn't care about you knowing key dates or battles.  What he wanted to know if you got the overall understanding of the underlying root causes of a civil war and the implications of the war.

I'm not sure I why I was surprised at the depth of the essay questions, but I wish I could write then the way I can write now (on-the-fly).  Basically, the final quiz essay questions were 4 questions postulated to you and you had 3 hours to complete the 4 questions.  I've always thought about these quiz questions; Quite a lot if I'm still thinking about it about.....25 years after I took the finals!  One question I've asked myself (as a fake quiz question) and I wish he had put into the final was the question: 

"Who won the Civil War?  And when did they win the Civil War?"

This is the type of open-ended question that his essay questions had me frozen for the first 15-20 minutes of the finals (even though I knew it was coming).

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