In his latest post to Class Struggle Jay Mathews responds to the Fordham survey of 1024 AP teachers released last week. It’s no surprise that he views the results differently than I did.
Basically he uses the column to restate his belief that large numbers of high school students, if not most, should be encouraged to enroll in AP classes. The more the better.
Mathews also finds support in the survey for that position despite the fact that a majority of AP teachers said “Only students who can handle the material should take AP courses” and that “it would improve their AP programs if they did more screening to make sure students were ready”.
In a comment to my take on the Fordham survey, he took exception to the idea that pushing students into classes for which they had little or no interest might be detrimental to both them and the students who did choose to be there.
It seems to me anything that gets them into an AP or IB course should be applauded. Once they are there, a great teacher can introduce them to the intellectual thrills, but to expect 16 year old Americans to be acting like Socrates’ students, burning with a desire for learning, is just naive. Indeed, having reached the ripe age of 64, I don’t recall me or my friends actively seeking intellectual sustenance at any stage of our lives.
He also had something to say about my view that the extreme emphasis on AP classes further locks our educational system into the idea that all students should go to college, offering them no choice in their path after graduation.
Oh, and on the why does everybody have to go to college issue, everybody doesn’t. But I don’t think either of us want to leave the decision as to what they are going to do after high school up to 15 year olds who are two or three years away from graduating, and don’t really know themselves, or the choices ahead of them very well.
Certainly Mathews is right that we shouldn’t leave decisions like attempting college-level work or whether to attend college entirely to 15 year olds.
However, leaving students completely out of the process of deciding how to use their talents and passions is both wrong and detrimental to their futures.
We should be offering high school students more educational options, not fewer, and not assume that the only way to enrich their learning is by way of the narrow, university-focused program created by the College Board.