Part 1--Part II has the good news!
January 2009PARADE THROUGH THE KINGDOMS1(…more like a death march, than a parade, but it’s Biology! Yay! ☺)
The above is taken from an assignment given at a selective private Catholic girls high school. I recognize the gallows humors, even use it, as I drag my lambs through a similar course. I have to. It's audited by the College Board, and students, parents, administrators, board of education members, and Superintendents will walk through fire to get the coveted AP® Course Audit stamp on a transcript.
I am part of this lunacy. First, the bad news....
I teach AP Biology, or at least try to, to seniors, many who are taking far too many AP courses. There are many good reasons to take AP courses, but no good reasons to take too many. Students feel the pressure of the admissions wars. If both Punch and Judy want a shot at Elite U, and Punch takes an AP science because "it looks good on his transcript," well, Judy thinks she needs to do the same. I get two uninterested seniors for the price of one.
Our school administration encourages children to take AP, as many do, in the escalating war of school rankings. If New Jersey Monthly, a regional rag clearly read by folks with a higher opinion of themselves than I have of myself (just ask them) judges schools by the "number of AP tests offered compared to the total number of juniors and seniors (a calculation designed to avoid penalizing smaller schools)," and your local school board worries as much about property values (as it should), then there will be
If you are Gaspar Caperton, President and CEO of the College Board,
If you are the President of Elite U, and want to keep up your US News and World Report rankings, you need to sell your school to children who have no shot at getting in. Part of your rating is based on the rejection rate of first time college applicants. The more you reject, the higher your score. You're kind of stuck with the numerator, the number of slots you have open, so you best boost the denominator, how many applied. You are under pressure to sell dreams to the impressionable.
Result? We have a generation of public school seniors compromising their health in a battle mutually assured destruction as they struggle to get into colleges that pretend they have a shot.
The CEO of the College Board, the President of Elite U, the editors at NJ Monthly and US News and World Report make good coin, high school administrators keep the board and parents at bay, and the students, literally, break down and cry.
I see the tears. The children are in an impossible place. They live at the pinnacle of human civilization, they have food on the table, roofs over their heads, and youth in their veins, and they are crying.
It's easy to say they're just spoiled, or weak, or lazy, and many of those shepherding them say just that. But when I hear that a student toils away in a mall selling shoes so that she can afford to pay for a series of tests to measure how much she "knows" in subjects she only took out of fear, well, I think of the $16,000 compensation Mr. Caperton pulls down each week.