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English III/AP: American Literature
2014-2015 (10th-12th graders)


by Whitney Lydrickson

Pines droop while fog hovers in murky air
like silent streams of smoke.
Mountain bluebirds relax,
nestled in twig houses scattered like ornaments
through green needles far above
the forest floor.
Below, squirrels rush to hideouts
carved long ago, seeking warmth
before another January snow.
Blazing sun
lingers beyond dark clouds,
assuring white flakes.


by Noah Stapp

A few months ago, my progress on learning a piano piece plateaued. Instead of changing my approach, I kept trying to play the difficult sections by brute force, practicing over and over with no real improvement. I thought that I could conquer it by simply doing what I had been doing before without changing my method: I gave in to hubris. This belief that we can be successful by repeating old patterns is a common occurrence: we learn through copying others, and have difficulty changing our perspective. Humans learn to walk, talk, and do most things through imitation. However, this reliance on previous knowledge is harmful, as progress requires a new approach. Each type of music requires a fresh strategy, new movements, and new rhythms, yet we repeat methods that have worked so far: we attempt to play a Mozart symphony the same way we would perform Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. This arrogance, revealed in the battered pages of history, expresses how countless empires and armies have fallen due to the overconfidence of historical figures.

Napoleon, the conqueror of Europe and one of the greatest military minds of history, was not immune to pride. During June of 1812, Napoleon led an army of more than half a million soldiers into Russia as retribution for Tsar Alexander's refusal to help blockade Britain. Napoleon "prophesied the war would be over in twenty days." 1 However, this prediction would be one of the most inaccurate in history. The Russian forces simply led Napoleon's army across Russia, destroying crops and farmland as they went. The "Grande Armee" was losing thousands of men per day due to sickness, desertion, and the scorching heat of the Russian plains. When Napoleon finally reached Moscow in September with fewer than a third of his original forces, their numbers further reduced by the battles of Smolensk and Borodino, he discovered that the Russians had retreated. With Alexander refusing to make peace, and winter fast approaching, Napoleon had little choice but to turn back. Winter came fast and hard: thousands of men died, horses were eaten, and the Russian cavalry harassed the dying army like flies surrounding dead flesh. Without food and shelter, Napoleon's force wasted away: when he finally returned to France, he had fewer than 10,000 men remaining. This massive military blunder would later lead to his downfall and exile.

More than one hundred years after Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, Hitler would repeat Napoleon's mistake: he would invade Russia during winter. This mind-boggling overconfidence was not at first misplaced. The beginning of the invasion went well: Hitler's tactics appeared to be working. However, Hitler had failed to learn from Napoleon's past mistakes and did not outfit his soldiers with proper winter equipment, nor did he retreat in time to avoid the deadly snow. Only a few weeks into the invasion, more than 100,000 Soviet soldiers were dead. However, the Germans had expected the Soviets to quickly collapse under their ferocious assault. They had not properly equipped their forces, and so had to wait out the deadly Soviet winter. Thousands of troops died from cold and food shortages, as had the members of the Grand Armee in 1812. The Third Reich forces began a slow retreat, in stark contrast to their original plans of sieging Moscow. Eventually, the winter ended and the Germans resumed their attacks on the Soviet Union, but they never achieved their goal of conquering Moscow. Blinded by hubris, Hitler's splitting his forces between attacking Russia and fighting the rest of the Allies would prove to be a massive mistake that ultimately cost him his empire.

I eventually learned my piano piece by slowing down and focusing on just getting the rhythm and notes right first, and then adding speed. By trying to race through the piece and solve my problem, I was not breaking down and mastering each part before uniting the sections into a cohesive whole. Rushing through the piece might make me better at one part of it, but would not make me better at playing. Additionally, by rushing through the music, I would not improve my overall playing ability, the entire point of playing pieces for practice. Albert Frantz, a professional pianist, says: "Each day, practice just one passage, and practice it extremely carefully and thoroughly. This makes for a far more efficient piano practice in the long run." 2 Breaking down and mastering piano pieces section by section made me a better musician overall.

Even though Hitler's invasion of Russia was extremely ill-advised, the military strategy of the Third Reich for conquering Europe during World War II was very effective, and made heavy use of the divide-and-conquer technique. Rather than attacking all of Europe head-on, a fight they could not possibly win, the Germans instead attacked and easily conquered many small European nations. By defeating the smaller countries, Hitler's forces gained more power and territory, eventually allowing them to overrun and take control of France. To solve difficult issues, people must first solve the problems that make up the larger whole. Playing an entire piano piece repeatedly might make one better at playing individual sections, but it will not improve overall musicianship. To break the repeating pattern of overconfidence in human history and everyday life, people must ignore human tendencies toward hubris. History is driven by egotism, a force that also weakens modern habits.

1 - The Russian Campaign. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/empires/napoleon/n_war/campaign/page_12.html. Web.
2 - Frantz, Albert. Efficient Piano Practice: 10 Expert Tips. Key-Notes. http://www.key-notes.com/efficient-piano-practice.html. Web.

To see all vocabulary for the year, go to: American Literature VOCABULARY. Play to study on Quizlet >>>


Participation = 30%
(purely subjective, based on my perceptions of your initiative, interest, self-motivation, & tenacity)

Assignments (two parts of grade)

1st Semester EFFORT = 20%;
2nd Semester EFFORT = 10%;

Vocab/Multiple Choice tests = 15%

AP Portfolio essay grades = 15%

Exams = 10%

An explanation of the assignment grades at right. The grade you see is an average of the CONTENT grades you have received over an average of the EFFORT grades you have received. During the first semester, the effort grade will be weighted more; during the Spring semester, I will look at the content average as the more signifiicant part of your grade.

pieces written by English III students this year

pieces written by English III students in 2010-2011
pieces written by English III students in 2007-2008
pieces written by English III students in 2005-2006
pieces written by English III students in 2003-2004
pieces written by English III students in 2001-2002

During your MDHS reading class this year, choose some books from the 9th-10th Grade Reading List.

Click on the icon at right to access Editors' Links and directions for email editing: Editors' Links

Check all papers for these skills before turning them in to me.

2nd Semester Unfinished pieces

                Assignments: 92% [E] / 91% [C]
                timed essays = 62%
                Multiple Choice/vocab = 65%


                Assignments: 93% [E] / 90% [C]
                timed essays = 52%
                Multiple Choice/vocab = 44%


                Assignments: 85% [E] / 83% [C]
                timed essays = 52%
                Multiple Choice/vocab = 29%


                Assignments: 98% [E] / 96% [C]
                timed essays = 74%
                Multiple Choice/vocab = 91%


                Assignments: 90% [E] / 90% [C]
                timed essays = 66%
                Multiple Choice/vocab = 53%


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