How many APs are you taking?

How many APs are you taking?

If you are a junior or senior, I bet you hear that all the time. It is questions such as this that fuel the Advanced Placement (AP) targeted vision of our school.

AP courses have completely overrun our curriculum. We focus almost exclusively on the names of courses on our transcript causing us to underestimate and undermine the value of non-AP courses.

I may be labeled a hypocrite for writing this piece because I, like most upperclassmen, take AP courses. I am not denying that I learn a great deal in my AP courses, nor am I in any way implying that the teachers of AP courses are somehow inferior.

The argument I am making is not to devalue AP classes, but rather to ensure that non-AP courses are taken seriously by students as they have immense educational value.

One of the reasons why I love my non-AP classes is because the curricula are constantly changing.

On Fridays, in my Contemporary Global History course, my peers and I bring in current event articles that we want to discuss. This means that we, as students, are able to dictate what we are debating and focusing on. And, in my Poetry class, when we studied the art of poetry translation between languages, an esteemed poetry translator, who was visiting his grandchildren at ASL, came to speak to us for an entire class period.

The curricula of non-AP classes create environments that facilitate the establishment of personal opinions by students. These courses allow us to connect our learning to events that are occurring outside the walls of our school. This is impossible in AP classes because of time restraints.

Additionally, in both these classes, if we erupt into an unplanned discussion about a certain issue for half the class, that’s OK.

I highly value classes that are able to accommodate the interests and preferences of students and aren’t forced to abide by a strict curriculum time frame.

In many cases, the flexibility of non-AP curricula enables students to target their learning to areas that interest them, and remain informed about current events.

I encourage students to not dismiss a non-AP class as “a joke.” The lessons that are learned in these classes can often be just as, if not more, applicable to the real world than those learned in AP classes.

One essential skill that I feel is lost in AP curricula is the ability to form an opinion. The spirit of debate and discussion is an integral part of an academic environment. In AP courses, you learn how to interpret and analyze information, which in itself is a valuable skill. But, in non-AP courses, this is taken further. Students are encouraged to develop their own personal opinions on certain topics.

For example, in my AP U.S. History class, a parallel was made between an event that we were studying and present day terrorist attacks. However, we quickly moved on from this point and I was unable to share my opinion on the matter. It was not the teacher that prevented me from being able to express my views; it was the rigid curriculum that doesn’t allow for much leeway.

In contrast, in my Contemporary Global History course, we set aside a significant portion of class to discuss and analyze the Paris terrorist attacks right after they occurred.

The same disparity applies to science courses. If a monumental scientific breakthrough occurred tomorrow, AP science courses would not have room in their curricula to discuss it, as the topic would not be covered on the AP exam. Courses like AP Chemistry and AP Biology are supposed to be high-level, however, they do not allow a room full of passionate scientists to discuss such an event.

At ASL, we are exposed to a variety of different perspectives and life experiences. AP courses do not take advantage of this. They do not allow students to bring their own personal perspectives into their learning and use them to develop their own opinions.

I encourage students to appreciate non-AP courses, as they are the classes that shape our perspectives and add an integral aspect of relevance to our education.

I don’t come to school to just memorize facts. Education is more than learning how to take an AP test; it is about shaping our curiosity and our desire to learn.

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