By Jake Lawson
The yearly schedule frenzy begins months before the actual school year starts. Director of Academic Services Oona McKnight works tirelessly to put our schedules together during the summer months, only to be met with dozens of requests to change schedules immediately after they are sent out. Of course, McKnight is not the only one who experiences stress from this process; year to year, students are inevitably afraid of their schedules not being perfect, and any imperfections are immediate sources of anxiety.
However, this year, the stress of scheduling seems to be continuing throughout the year for many students, rather than ending after the add/drop period. This year, the prerequisites for certain classes were changed, making it so that underclassmen could take more challenging courses earlier on in their high school careers.
This change begs the question of “why?”, and while the simple answer that we’re all given is that our school feels that underclassmen can handle harder classes, I have my own theories. The first of these is the concept of grade inflation expanding from grades to course load, or, “AP inflation.” With college acceptance rates slowly shrinking year to year, there is a sentiment, especially in a highly academically charged school like SA, that Bs are the new Cs, and Cs are the new Fs. If a student has a C- in a class at our school, their parents are notified, and the student must go through constant dialogue with their teacher in an attempt to raise their seemingly horrible grade; essentially, the student is treated as though they are failing. As is constantly forgotten, a C is supposed to mean that a student’s understanding of course material and overall performance in a class is “average.” The idea that a student should not be getting a C, by direct relation, means that average is unacceptable.
Of course, a C doesn’t necessarily mean “average” anymore, as it is supposed to, due to grade inflation. Many people would tell you that it is completely possible to get an A in a subject with a relatively average understanding of the course material. This fact alone is proof that grade inflation has caused a warped sense of what it means to do well in school. That warped idealism has spread from grades to course load, and it has become normal for a student to take multiple AP courses in classes that they are not necessarily experts in for the sake of their college application.
It’s easy to assume that taking an advanced level course in a subject that you dislike or do not particularly understand simply for the shiny AP label is unhealthy. Even so, students in the past have been able to cope with the AP system for a year or so, taking the hardest APs during junior year (which is usually the hardest year of high school when it pertains to course work), and having a more relaxing sophomore and senior year. However, it seems that AP inflation is spreading across grade-level boundaries, causing sophomores to feel the need to take previously labeled “senior” AP classes, such as AP Statistics, two years earlier in their career, leaving space in their schedules in later years to take more AP classes.
This AP inflation is no particular fault of SA, but is rather a statement about American society as a whole. Students across the country are made to feel inferior for taking classes that do not have the coveted AP letters in front of the title. Because of this, many high schools are doing away with the AP curriculum, but the number of schools that are doing so is inconsequential when compared to the number of schools pushing their students to take APs in order to get into college. In essence, I would like this piece to serve as a reminder that AP classes are not required. They are not required to have an acceptable college application, they are not required to have a good GPA, and, most of all, they are not are requirement to be a smart, well-rounded and fully capable high school student.