Why I regret letting my teen sign up for an AP courseRoundup
tags: education, AP
… I graduated from an academically rigorous liberal arts school. In my freshman humanities class, I read a book a week: philosophy, literature, biographies, social science. But my classmates and I did not spend our time charting the number of syllables in Emily Dickinson’s poems or listing all the noble houses in Ssu-ma Chien’s chronicle of Chinese history. We were asked to think critically, raise questions, cite relevant passages and discuss a work’s implications in the wider world.
Nothing like that appeared to be taking place in my son’s AP history class. But I kept my mouth shut.
“I would enjoy learning about this,” he told me one night, “if the whole point wasn’t to go through it as fast as possible and then take a kajillion quizzes.”
“I’m sure that’s not the whole point,” I said.
At back-to-school night, I looked forward to meeting the teacher, who would undoubtedly put all this in perspective. Instead, she talked for 15 minutes about tests and grading policies.
At the end, my husband raised his hand. “What’s the main thing you want students to get from this class?” he asked.
I leaned forward expectantly. Now, surely, the teacher would mention an appreciation for the sweep of human history or the importance of an informed perspective on world events.
“Test-taking strategies and study skills,” she said briskly. “That’s the main thing.”
Our boy was right. The whole point really was to pass a regimen of tests and quizzes while hurtling from the prehistoric era to the 21st century. Once I got over that, I appreciated his teacher’s honesty. High school students need study skills. and they are not always taught explicitly. By June, our son should be an expert.
Although the course is not what either of us expected, I admire his diligence on these late nights. He’s learning to manage his time and assimilate information quickly, skills which will undoubtedly serve him well in life. But part of me wishes I had dissuaded him from signing up for the AP class. A college-level class should get kids excited about undergraduate coursework, not turn them off to learning. I worry that after this, he will be reluctant to take another history course. And that would be a shame.
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