In four months, I will graduate from Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Queens. Come June, I will have taken a total of eight Advanced Placement classes in four years. I did this to improve my chances at getting into a good college – and it worked. But my favorite classes were not any of those A.P. courses; my best high school memories come from the spirited teachers who inspired me to expand my horizons and defy the status quo.
At a time when high schools are expanding the availability of Advanced Placement courses due to popular demand from students, parents, and more importantly, colleges, I think it’s important to weigh the costs. A.P. may be the “it” item in education today, but they sap every last bit of enjoyment out of the learning experience.
I am a victim of the A.P. Test. Along with hundreds of my classmates, I sit in on lectures and lessons that cater not to the students but to a rigid and uninspired curriculum established by adults associated with The College Board. There are no field trips, no projects, and no creative writing assignments, only outlines, practice tests, and stacks of review books. Teachers present the same Power Point presentations as last year, and the year before that, and prepare us for one thing, and that thing only: the A.P. Test.
Students are caught in a bind: either select classes that they will enjoy, like journalism and art sculpture, or A.P. classes that will enhance their prospects of getting into elite colleges.
It is, however, unfair to scapegoat the A.P. classes. They are merely representative of a bigger problem plaguing schools: a lack of flexibility for educators. Teachers must work towards one goal, and that is to make their students pass year-end examinations. So they tread on with the same hackneyed lesson plans and assignments in lieu of other creative and engaging activities that have the potential to motivate struggling students to learn.
Every day, as I observe the chaotic crowds in the hallways outside classrooms. I hear subtle remarks from adults and faculty who blame the students for their lack of attention and knowledge. But the real group we all should blame is the entity that kills innovation, organic learning, and most importantly, fun in our classrooms.
At my school, there are students who roam the hallways, causing mayhem and intense migraines for security officers and deans alike. They may seem uninterested in obtaining an education but I believe it’s more a result of an educational system that has failed to engage them.