the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Margee Mahoney ’24
All upperclassmen are familiar with the infamous AP® European History course. One of the most dreaded classes at the school, countless students chose it year after year to challenge themselves, ready to walk in and face C. Griff head-on. It was an excellent opportunity to challenge oneself, but class-takers soon found out The AP Euro course had a reputation for a reason. Faced with page after page of grueling reading about distant lands and entry quizzes to put the nail in the coffin, the fall term in AP Euro certainly felt like drowning. However, if you stuck with it, dealt with the AP-format tests, and at least 15 pages of reading a night, you certainly picked up a few valuable skills.
First of all, how to write faster. One of the most important skills to do well in the class, students either learned that within the first week or dropped.
Secondly, how to read with purpose. Spending two hours reading a night was simply not doable, so students adapted. We learned how to pull out key pieces of information from intense blocks of text and do it fast. We learned to piece together a larger understanding of the big picture with blood, sweat, tears and the guidance of Mr. Griffith.
While the AP European History course certainly gave me gray hairs and a whirlwind of stress beyond my teenage years, I wouldn’t trade these lessons, and the many others I learned along the way, for anything. They are applicable in all my classes this year (especially APUSH, where I face Mr. Griffith’s grueling entry quizzes again), and I know they will continue to be in future years. Not to mention the satisfaction of closing my Euro textbook for the last time, writing my last note, and turning in my AP assessment at the end of the year.
Yes, the course was unbelievably content loaded and it was next to impossible to get through everything before the AP assessment at the end of the year, but I question if future students prefer the new sophomore history courses, or wish they could have challenged themselves with Euro as past students had the opportunity to do. In its place, we now see Honors Contemporary history.
I interviewed Helen Marshall ’25 to get a feel on what the class is like. She says it’s “one of the most challenging classes I take with large amounts of homework.”
Now doesn’t that sound quite familiar! She went on to explain that the content load is large and it’s a fast-paced class. This too, sounds very similar to the structure of AP Euro. “It’s a lot more discussion based and interactive than I’m used to,” she said, “but it’s definitely benefiting me as a student as I have to stay fully focused during class.”
This is a challenging adjustment for most, but is an absolutely necessary skill for becoming a better student. However, these challenges obviously do not come without stress. The fast pace creates a constant need to push oneself, and needing a sick day or to miss a class can make a person feel as though they missed a unit.
Helen explained she most likely would not have taken AP Euro because she heard how challenging and stressful it was for other students. While it’s beneficial to challenge yourself academically and it’s great that a surplus of students felt more confident in taking this class, Helen illustrated that some students felt as though they were “basically taking an AP course without the credit.”
Obviously, this is a frustrating experience and I understand why some students debate if it’s worth the challenge when the amount of work isn’t recognized as a college level course. While AP Euro was at times extremely hard to handle, I did appreciate the recognition and satisfaction after taking the exam and completing the class.
Looking back, it was more than worth it. The study skills I learned and attention to detail that was ingrained in me benefitted me in all my other classes, and continues to do so in my junior year. I hope the sophomore history scholars will accept the challenge and push themselves this year and still be rewarded the same satisfaction that the Euro students experienced. After all, if they decide to take APUSH their following year, the study skills they picked up through Honors Contemporary History will most definitely be put to the test by Mr. Griffith!
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