To the Editor:
Paul Von Blum’s Commentary criticizing Advanced Placement courses completely misses the mark (“Are Advanced Placement Courses Diminishing Liberal Arts Education?,” Sept. 3, 2008). Due in large part to the continued and excessive emphasis on accountability in today’s schools, analysis, interpretation, critical thinking, and creativity have almost completely been eliminated from most curricula except AP courses.
As an AP literature teacher, I relish the freedom I have to challenge my students to question and fully explore the subject—even using controversial texts, which Mr. Von Blum believes aren’t being taught in high schools. This is a luxury I do not have in a general English course.
Further, as a former student who took numerous AP courses and received a large number of college credits, I found an incredible freedom to take classes in college completely outside my field of study and to broaden my knowledge.
Mr. Von Blum’s informal study of the students in his University of California, Los Angeles, classes would have been better suited as a personal observation kept out of print. Although he states that “it is unrealistic to advocate the abolition of Advanced Placement courses,” he clearly is doing just that—and based on a small sampling of students who may or may not have actually taken AP courses, or who may or may not have taken such courses seriously. The “antithesis of genuine liberal learning” would be to advocate the abolition of AP classes, which for many high school students are the first time they are challenged to really think.
Ellsworth Community High School
A version of this article appeared in the September 24, 2008 edition of Education Week as Critic of AP Courses Places ‘Observations’ Above Facts