A comparative DBQ! The 2007 exam asking students to analyze Roman and Han attitudes toward technology is an outlier in our corpus of legacy exams. First, the official grading guidelines never require students to compare any similarities and differences between attitudes in the two empires, effectively making this two separate mini-DBQs. Second, the documents are not in chronological order, but are instead broken into “Han Documents” and “Roman Documents.” Everything is so compartmentalized that, honestly, students may be better off watching Dragon Blade with Jackie Chan and John Cusack! At least that movie has some China-Rome interactions!
Our example DBQ in the new course guidelines tips the College Board’s hand in that these types of essays are now going to ask for a specific comparison between two places (not to mention broader global contextualization for some of the high-bar points). I’ve modified the prompt accordingly and removed documents to get us down to six text sources. For our visual source, I was troubled as to how to find a map, chart, graph, or object that would express “attitude” towards technology. There are a lot of medieval or Song or Ming depictions and recreations of Roman or Han technological inventions. However, considering that students will likely have not encounter these periods (and the baggage they bring) when we give them this exam for practice, I decided against this. Even though I think that crazy seismograph invented in the Han is beyond cool.
In the end, I went with a modern picture of Roman road. While this doesn’t show an explicit attitude, students are going to have to connect attitudes with imperial planning, construction and labor, and engineering that can be gleaned from the picture and their own knowledge of world history. Or, you could just have them watch Dragon Blade. Until tomorrow!