Learning Life: Overcoming history’s challenges

Dec. 09, 2012 @ 08:41 PM

The somber eyes of the standing cardboard cutout of Abraham Lincoln gaze across Room 232 as teacher Bryon Booher reviews topics for an impending test in advanced placement United States history.
Cameron McNeill, a junior at Riverside High School, has found the course somewhat challenging this year. On a recent report card, he got a B in the AP history class.
“It was the first B of my life, so I am a little disappointed with it,” he says. “U.S. history is a pretty tough class, but I was borderline A/B and I got one point below an A, so it is nothing to worry about.”
The material for Wednesday’s exam explores the political and social aspects of the Civil War and its aftermath. Booher, who bears some resemblance to actor Daniel Craig without the British accent, tells students they don’t have to worry as much about the military history aspects this time.
“It makes you a better person for knowing it, but you don’t need it for the test,” he quips.
He tells students – about 30 in the class including McNeill – they’ll need to know the advantages for both sides in the conflict between the North and South. They’ll need to know political leaders such as Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, plus key generals including Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
Also, they’ll need to know about the struggle during Reconstruction, after the war, as politicians went back and forth over readmission of former Confederate States of America citizens and efforts to disenfranchise CSA politicians.
They also cover events leading up to the war, such as the time Democrat Preston Brooks attacked Free Soil/Republican Charles Sumner with a cane in 1856 on the floor of the U.S. Senate over a pro-abolition speech.
“He got hit in the head with a cane and he still went back to the Senate,” one student notes in astonishment.
Another compares Sumner to troublemakers on the Internet who stir up trouble for the sake of eliciting angry responses: “He was just a troll, that’s all.”
McNeill comments that all the political wrangling before, during and after the Civil War seem somewhat familiar in tone. “It’s like we see today, trying to achieve fiscal peace,” he says.
Booher agrees: “Partisan bickering is not a new thing.”


On Thursday, McNeill found out that he was among five students in the class to get an A on the test.
“I’ve gotten an A on the past few tests and I hope to continue to improve,” he said.
How did he overcome the challenges?
“I put some work into studying for the test and I’ve been using my time more efficiently outside of school,” he said. “I also have talked to my teacher about how I could improve my grade in the class.
“All of that and some extra studying have come together.”

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