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AP course preparation must be up to par

The recent vote to ban AP history in Oklahoma got me thinking about the concept of Advanced Placement high school courses in general. Representatives in Oklahoma want to change the curriculum because the recent AP United States history curriculum is a “radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

I don’t believe this is necessarily bad because it gives students perspective about the negative issues in the U.S., allowing them to learn from them and improve in the future, which is what our society is about.

Looking back to my high school years, I took two AP courses senior year: psychology and environmental science. I also had many friends who took AP U.S. history, among other courses.

Four years later, I’m in a different mindset and have more of an objective view of these courses and national exams. For the most part, students who pass AP tests use them to opt out of general education classes in college. The lucky ones get courses out of the way for their major.

But is that really so lucky?

A high school class at the “college level” doesn’t necessarily match up, especially when high school standards vary state-to-state. Some majors require students to retake AP chemistry at the collegiate level to make sure they fully grasp the material that is so fundamental to their studies.

The Common Core’s initiative to create more of a standardized education system throughout the nation is beginning to unfold; however it is virtually impossible to be sure that all students are receiving a comparable education.

This is unfortunate because students in areas with lower taxes go to schools which receive less funding, essentially widening the education gap between students of minority and impoverished backgrounds compared to students of privileged upbringings.

AP courses can be a hit or a miss. I earned an A in my AP environmental science class, which we called APES. This is fitting because all we did was monkey around.
I did not feel prepared for the test at the end of the year that could exempt me from a biological science class here at the University of Massachusetts and my score proved I was unprepared. I then had to take a BS requirement, a class I was not interested in, nor excited about.

In hindsight, I wish I studied on my own for the AP test to have more of a chance of passing.

My AP psychology class, however, granted me social and behavioral general education credits. It also proved to be my favorite class in high school and I still remember many things I learned that can be related to what I currently study in college.

The problem with some AP classes is that students take the course in high school and don’t remember the information as well as if they took it more recently in college, especially when they take higher level classes that require the basis knowledge learned years ago.

Schools compare GPAs, but an A in my APES class might not be equal to an A at another school. Standards are hard to conform to but it is difficult to find another method of standardizing besides exams. That’s why the SATs and ACTs still exist, even though part of scoring highly on these exams is knowing how to answer a tricky question.

No matter a person’s age, learning is about giving and taking. If I were to sit in a lecture and absorb everything the professor said, I would not be completely satisfied. It is important to discuss and play around with different methods, arguments and ways of thinking.

Questioning the professor and one’s own thoughts is important. In this way, AP classes could have positive benefits. If they present college-level material like they are supposed to, a 300-person lecture is narrowed down to a 25-person high school class.

This mostly holds true since AP classes cover material that students often take in large lecture form.

Regardless of the class and curriculum, the teacher’s methods can make or break it. Bringing in real-world examples is a way for students to apply what they are learning to everyday life, eliminating the “When am I ever going to use this in life?” thoughts.

Not everyone is cut out to teach. A professor could be a genius in his or her field but not be able to convey the information. Just because someone knows the material inside and out does not mean that their students will effectively learn from them.

Just like everything else in life, the American education system has flaws and officials are working toward improvement. Even more similarly, people can never be satisfied and always want to strive for bigger and better methods.

Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian Columnist and can be reached at kpodorefsky@umass.edu.

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