Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are Advanced Placement Courses Diminishing Liberal Arts Education?

While thought-provoking the article is, it does seem to be based on observations rather actual empirical date. Furthermore, while Advanced Placement classes are, indeed, taught at my school, their presence seems to be very important to both the participants and their parents, regardless of what some remote professor believes. Any shortcomings that Professor Von Blum finds in his own undergrads are due to the American secondary education ideal in its entirety, where we are charged with educating everyone regardless of cognitive ability, this is not specific to AP classes. Somebody needs to wake this Von Blum up, and his yearning for "genuine liberal learning," as in my equally subjective recollections over my 14 year career, it's rare that current students learn for any thoroughness or mastery, but instead for the mark. In other words, for most, it's the result, the grade, rather than the process.

And, despite the import that we may share for the more esoteric classes that make up the traditional liberal arts undergraduate education, parents won't generally tolerate the collegiate bill for Jill or Jack to take classes in areas not leading to a definable degree with monetary and employability outcomes.

Certainly, let us not forget that Professor Von Blum's rallying against rote-memorization and test-taking has legislative origins: No Child Left Behind. We're hamstrung.

Finally, Professor Von Blum condescends when he argues that high school teachers "are not qualified or knowledgeable enough to offer college-level instruction." Don't fool yourself, Von Blum, you teach at an upper mediocre public school, hardly Oxford. A cursory search of the database Academic OneFile, geared toward scholarly research articles, shows Professor Von Blum's wanting near recent research output: 2 articles since January 1995.

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