At my school, Oak Park & River Forest High School, I've noticed something that no one has ever addressed before: the lack of diversity in advanced placement (AP) and honors classes. This realization occurred to me last year, when I decided to take AP American Literature. In that class, we covered topics that ranged from the importance of economic status to Communism to racial stereotypes and even slavery. We discussed such controversial topics and yet there was a blooming controversy happening right there in the classroom.
At first, I thought, that I was just overreacting. After all, if it were such a big deal, wouldn't the teachers or even the principal have already taken notice and tried to change this? But then, I started to think, maybe it was the students themselves. They can't be forced to take higher-level classes; they have to want to challenge themselves. Yet, it could also be argued that more students – specifically, African American and Hispanic students - might want to take advanced courses if they were encouraged to do so. Is not the whole point of having AP and honors classes at school to give teens a taste of college academics and prepare them for success?
I remember feeling so unsatisfied with my English classes Freshman and Sophomore year. They were so comically easy. Once I found out about AP/honors classes Freshman year, I expressed my interest to my teachers. But - at the last second - I backed out when it seemed like it would actually happen. Why, you might ask? I can only say this: I was scared. That's the plain and simple truth. I was afraid that if I had taken that next step and tried something harder, I wouldn't have been as successful as I was in a regular English class. Although I felt confident in taking English Literature sophomore year, I also felt regretful that I had passed up the opportunity to read more profound texts and be involved in deeper intellectual discussions. I had not even given a thought to the fact that I could be a minority in such a class.
To me, the problem seems to lie not just in the students, but mostly in the absence of encouragement. I believe that had the merit of AP and honors courses been promoted by my teachers or even by the school in general, I would have been less wary about taking them. If I had not been ignorant of how beneficial they could be for me in the future I definitely would have been less hesitant. I now know that one should try something, even when it seems hard. I'd like other students of color to learn this lesson, but not as late as I did.
What do you think, Oak Park? Is this is a problem at OPRF?
Answer Book 2019
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