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AP Classes Flawed and Taken for College Acceptance

Jon Loeb ’11
Staff Writer

Graphic by Connie Zhou '12

I walk into my AP classroom, and bagels and donuts are being distributed and eaten. My classmates have let it all out and are enjoying themselves. There’s no rigorous work to be completed, no PowerPoints to memorize, and no tests to stress over. Instead, we are a watching a documentary.

After months of daily work, it’s over. The tests, the homework, the free response questions and the endless multiple choice questions are done. We are about to spend the next two months working on projects at a slower and more relaxed pace, and all this work was for a two-and-a-half hour test.

Isn’t this an AP course, the paragon of high school education, the place where the presidents and moguls of tomorrow converse?

Yes, it is an AP course. But this is an AP course post AP-test. There’s no more work to be done, and two months of school are left. You probably are thinking, oh this is an article about the AP classes’ post AP test, written by some nerdy kid who can’t enjoy relaxing for once. You would be wrong.

No, the problem is not just the test, not just the post-AP vacation, not just the brainwashed curriculum and not just the fact that the whole thing is a giant racket by your pals at the CollegeBoard, but all of these things and a few more.

First of all, let’s straighten something out. The CollegeBoard, the company that runs SATs, PSATs, and APs, is not some evil Big Brother company; it is a non-profit organization. They’re not pocketing your testing money and spending it on Corvettes. This doesn’t mean that CollegeBoard isn’t out to milk every last dollar out of you even if it might be for a good cause. A fine example of the CollegeBoard’s dubious nature would be that students can pay an extra eight dollars per test to get their scores a few weeks early.

In fact, the whole system seems to favor the already-privileged. AP courses require the student to pay $86 to take the test. A bunch of study books can total to over $50.

This makes it easier for the wealthier schools, like Staples, to load our kids up on APs, give them the best resources and make their applications shine. Let’s repeat that: to make their applications shine.

CollegeBoard says you, yeah you, should take an AP course because “Through AP’s college-level courses and exams, you can earn college credit and advanced placement, stand out in the admissions process, and learn from some of the most skilled, dedicated, and inspiring teachers in the world.”

While the college credit thing is nice, many schools don’t accept APs, and others will let you out of an English course, but you’ll still have to take something like college level film class, which is probably not going to be a joke of any sorts.

So the big reason for AP classes’ popularity is their ability to get kids into good schools. More and more kids enroll in AP courses just to get that extra zing on their application.

This creates a sort of deranged and caged reality.

AP courses have become so insanely based on success and college applications that there is almost zero sense of enjoyment or knowledge for enjoyment.

When people are taking a class for application padding and nothing else, a few things may go out the window. They may cheat, they may get lazy when points or credit aren’t involved, and they may end up disrespecting their teacher and classmates.

And when a few students take an AP class for these reasons and end up using those sorts of tactics and behaviors, it becomes infectious. Students who never cheated or cut corners do so in order to keep up, and it becomes a way of life, an AP way of life.

It has come to the point where if you don’t have these habits, and if you try to put extra work in for enjoyment and care, you don’t do well.

What about these incredible teachers that the CollegeBoard raves about, won’t they elevate the class?

Not necessarily. Creativity and ingenuity in curriculums and lesson plans is frowned upon in the AP world. A teacher cannot teach what they are best at or use their most effective methods if it doesn’t cohere with the AP curriculum, and if they do, it can only be for a sliver of the year. The rest is devoted to tests, homogenized and as identical to the AP test as possible.

Also stifled, then, are the nation’s brightest learners.

What if a student doesn’t want to take APs but wants to take a difficult and challenging math course? Sorry, no can do.

The student might opt out of the AP test itself, but there are only so many classes and so many teachers, and so the challenging and fast-paced courses are all APs, still guided by the AP test.

AP classes draw our future presidents, business execs, and peacemakers. The only real life application they will ever learn is how to take an AP test – and perhaps how to cheat, lie and compete for the grade.

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