One of these threads has to do with pre-requisites for taking AP Biology. There are a variety of schools of thought here. The College Board recommends that students have taken chemistry prior to AP Bio, and many schools follow this suggestion (my school was one of them). Some schools have no pre-requisite requirements. Others have several. The push in my district is to remove any "gates" for upper division courses. If a kid wants to try a class, let him/her do so. In some ways, I have no problem with this. Perhaps a certain lack in their academic background is a handicap, but I can think of plenty of kids I've had who have had the proper course "pedigree" but didn't want to make an effort to apply it. I'm happy to have the kid who wants to try to make a go of the class, regardless of their previous preparation.
Today, one of the members of the listserv posted these thoughts about doing away with pre-requisites:
Why do we need to be more inclusive for those kids who want in to AP classes? This mindset really bothers me. Our policy is too lenient as it is at having a 90% in Bio 1 and passing Chem 1 to get into AP Bio. It should be tougher than that. These kids need a taste of reality. Should we let anyone into med school who wants? What about law school? NO. They have to learn that you have to earn spots in certain cases. It should be an honor to get into the class and the kids who get in should feel a sense of pride about it, not look across the room at some kid who shouldn’t be in there. I am sorry if I offended anyone, but this mindset that this country is moving towards of making everything equal just fires me up. There is a huge difference between equal and fair. I agree with being fair, but everything will not always be equal.
Stepping back to take a look at the larger picture, I can't quite agree with this particular view of "equal vs. fair." It is absolutely true that there are limited numbers of spots for different post-graduate programs, but why should a high school class be as competitive as med school? Is it "fair" that many students nationwide have been "tracked" away from more rigorous curriculum because of their skin colour and/or socio-economic status---and now they can't get out because they weren't allowed to take the pre-requisite courses? (Are these the kids who "shouldn't be there" that the other students will have to look at?) Is it "fair" to tell a kid that because they slacked off their studies when they were 14 and didn't get a certain grade in a class that they should be prohibited from showing they can and want to apply themselves to their studies? It's true, not everything will be equal. But I would like to think that we could at least level the playing field a bit and make it fair for students of all backgrounds.
My Boss Lady in Curriculum is an exceptional woman and I am learning a lot from her. One of the things that I have liked is watching her listen to someone on a rant about which classes are appropriate for which students (in their opinions). She actively listens. She shows concern. And then she simply states that we have to teach the kids who show up. We can't control how much money their families have...or how much time they spend on homework...or what they eat. What we can control is what happens in our classrooms during the moments those kids are in there. What will you do to make the most of that time for them? And how can I support you?
Like it or not, she's right. Every kid deserves the opportunity for a rigorous education. This does not mean that every kid needs to take AP Biology, only that we need to be in the business of helping kids find their potential---not keep them from doing so. All things being equal, that seems pretty fair to me.