Written by Alex Parikh-Briggs
Cover illustrated by Tess Buckley
Every spring, M-A students go through the school’s course catalog and pick the classes they will take in the following school year. In many subjects, students have plenty of options to pick from. The Science department, for example, provides juniors and seniors with nine different courses, five of which are AP. In the English Department, upperclassmen have three different classes to choose from each year.
However, the History and Social Science department doesn’t offer students the same flexibility. As freshmen, students are required to take World Studies/Ethnic Studies, and as seniors, Government and Economics. Although students can choose between taking regular and Advanced Placement (AP) European and US History in their sophomore and junior years, M-A limits their options to just these two subjects; sophomores, for instance, can only study European History. To provide more student choice, M-A should offer AP Government or AP Macroeconomics as additional options for seniors.
Right now, students only take a semester of Government and Economics in their senior year and don’t have a chance to take the AP courses. When asked why, Principal Loosekoot said that “there is an attempt to have all the seniors in the same class, and that in a school full of diversity, students can interact and learn something from one another.” However, if there is a goal to reduce the number of AP classes offered, perhaps we should cut AP European History in favor of either AP Government or AP Macroeconomics. Providing students the ability to go in-depth into either of the two areas would help them learn more. Instead of trying to get through lots of material, these AP courses would provide students more time to understand the concepts instead of jumping to an entirely different subject the following semester. Moreover, in my experience, having many different groups of students doesn’t actually lead to more interaction and connection between them. In contrast, students spend more time with people like themselves and their friends.
Additionally, Government and Economics are popular classes that students want to take. When asked about the relative popularity of her own Economics class, History Department chair Candace Bolles said that other teachers tell her that “students are talking about economics all the time” in their classes. This indicates that students are actually interested in what they are learning and would probably want AP classes to be offered. Moreover, in senior year, many students are coming off an intense wave of classes from junior year and while they would still like to take challenging courses, do not want to face the same level of stress. And with college applications impending, students simply have less time to dedicate to their classes. AP Government and Economics provide the perfect middle ground for this. The classes are generally considered to be easier AP classes, and ones that students tend to enjoy more. This gives seniors an intellectually demanding but non-stressful way to complete their last year of high school.
Furthermore, M-A students have to take many classes that they don’t want, so it would only be fair to provide students with some options that students would enjoy. Mostly, students interviewed don’t appear to have a problem with current offerings. However, some students question why, in each year, they only have one subject area available to them, for example asking, “Why AP European History?” The school has a strange explanation. Bolles said, “the reason AP European History was selected out of any other alternative class, most notably, AP World History, was a personal preference on the part of the teacher who originated it.” Additionally, the class is seen as “more accessible” than AP World History because of its focus on only one continent. However, this logic doesn’t benefit students. M-A should not focus on offering courses according to teachers’ preferences but instead, should offer classes that students enjoy. The offering of AP European History does not prevent other classes like AP Government and Economics.
When asked if student enrollment would increase if either AP Government or an AP Economics class were offered in place of European History, Bolles said that “either class would, with 100% certainty, have more signups than AP European History.”
Also, AP European History has become a general source of stress for students. Consistently, students rate it as one of the most challenging classes at M-A. According to our school’s class rigor chart, AP European History has the most nightly homework of any class at M-A. Moreover, there is the issue of content. In contrast to learning about kings and queens that are far in the past, our students have much more interest in AP Government and AP Economics because of the practical skills that these two classes can provide them. Thus, the classes should, at the very least, be offered as alternative options for seniors.
I urge our administration to begin having more conversations about adding new classes that are beneficial for our student body. We need to discuss adding AP Government and AP Macroeconomics to provide students with additional options that better fit their tastes.