Take-home Questions for Exams

For each exam this semester, students will write two essays: (1) one to be written in class during the exam period and (2) the other to be written at home and turned in with the exam.

The take-home exam questions are designed to encourage students to analyze critically the historical events we have studied and to draw conclusions about these events. The take-home questions ask students to answer questions about major issues of historical interpretation. By writing the essays at home, students are able to analyze material relevant to the exams in a setting where memorization and time limits will not be critical to the students' performance.

Three take-home questions are listed below. For each of our three exams, answer one question. You must answer a different question for each exam. Therefore, by the end of the semester, you will have answered each question once. Use the chart below to record which questions you have answered.

Exam 1
Exam 2
Exam 3
A. Reform: Forward-looking or Backward-looking?    
B. Conflict v. Consensus   
C. Rank the Presidents   


Question A

Historians of American reform movements have noted that these movement often appear to us in two guises: one, forward-looking and progressive, and the other, backward-looking and conservative. As the historian David B. Davis writes: "The various [reform] programs . . . had a dual objective for change and improvement. On the one hand, they attacked institutions, lifestyles, and traditional social roles that seemed to limit individual opportunity and to block the path of progress. On the other hand, they attempted to restore and revitalize the sense of purity, simplicity, and wholeness that had been lost in the headlong pursuit of modernity and material improvement" (The Great Republic, 314). Reformers also often try to control social disorder--and, disorderly individuals.

Take-home question: For the historical period covered by the exam, which goals were more important in shaping the fundamental character of reform movements: the forward-looking, progressive objectives or the backward-looking conservative objectives?

Question B

One source of disagreement among historians is the question of whether conflict or consensus has usually characterized American society? Some historians argue that the U.S. has always been divided into distinct economic, ethnic, religious, and gender groups whose relationships with other groups have been characterized by conflict. This conflict has been one of the principal forces shaping American history. Other historians argue that the most important theme in American history is consensus. While not denying the existence of economic, ethnic, religious, and gender groups which sometimes disagreed with each other, these historians argue that throughout American history there has been a remarkable overall unity among Americans in regard to values, goals, and aspirations. This consensus is unique among nations of the western world.

Take-home question: For the historical period covered by the exam, was American life characterized more by conflict or consensus among economic, ethnic, religious, and gender groups?

Question C

Historians and political scientists often evaluate the "greatness" of American presidents. This evaluation is usually based on an assessment of a president's successes and failures, the short-term and long-term consequences of a president's actions, the success of a president in adjusting to the domestic and international conditions of his time period, and the quality of the president's decision-making process.

Take-home question: For the historical period covered by the exam, rank the presidents who served from in order of their greatness as president. (With number one being the greatest and number seven being the worst.)

Begin your paper with a simple listing of the presidents in the order that you have ranked them. Then, give a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind your answer. Your answer should include an evaluation of each of these presidents and an explanation of why you ranked them where you did (i.e., you will need to do some comparing and contrasting).

Guidelines

Answer this take-home question in an essay of four or fewer pages. I assume that many of you will find evidence which supports more than one side of these issues. Nevertheless, on each question you should state clearly which theory best explains American history. Remember that making a successful argument involves not only presenting evidence and arguments for your side of the issue, but also refuting evidence and arguments on the other side of the issue. Be sure to explain the reasons for your answer and use specific examples drawn from the textbook, class lectures, or other sources to support your answer.

You may consult these readings and your class notes while you are answering the question, but be certain to include a bibliography and reference notes for the materials you use. The normal rules regarding plagiarism apply to this essay. Also, you should not consult with other students concerning your answer. Your answer to the take-home question is due at the beginning of class on the day of the exam.


HIS 223: Introduction to American History, 1492-1877

HIS 223: Introduction to American History, 1877-Present

This page was last updated on 1/18/01
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Dr. Harold D. Tallant, Department of History, Georgetown College
400 East College Street, Georgetown, KY 40324, (502) 863-8075
E-mail: Harold_Tallant@georgetowncollege.edu.

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