Linda K. Wertheimer’s “The Problem of AP Overload” (October 7) focuses on pressured students who take too many Advanced Placement courses. But these courses are problematic in their own right, a product of the tendency to confuse harder with better. The point of AP courses isn’t to help students think deeply and excitedly about questions that matter; it’s to prepare them for a test. That means the curriculum is largely shaped by the College Board, not by teachers — let alone by students. The courses tend to be lecture-driven and textbook-based, more about covering (a vast array of facts) than about discovering. No wonder many public and private high schools across the country have eliminated AP courses. Their goal in doing so isn’t just to reduce stress but to improve the quality of learning.
Alfie Kohn / Belmont
I teach an AP US history course and recently “revised’’ a stanza from Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “16 Tons’’ about company towns. My version goes like this: “You study 1600 hours, what do you get / Another year older and deeper in debt / If the Ivy League calls me tell them I can’t go / I sold my soul to the College Board.” I enjoy teaching AP because I get to teach kids who (usually) enjoy learning and the challenge. But at times it does seem hard to believe that the College Board is a nonprofit.
Marla Davis Lonergan / Sharon
As a parent going through the college search process, I can assure you these colleges that insist they want “balance” are quick to point out that the students they want are those who chose the most challenging courses, preferably AP classes. It’s not just the Ivies; my daughter and I haven’t visited one school that hasn’t stressed the importance of APs. Could their rankings in US News & World Reportpossibly have any bearing on this?
Sarah Cain / Wayne, Pennsylvania
Ron Fletcher’s excellent Perspective essay “Touching the Surface” (October 7) highlights the challenges facing many of us in academia. I still laugh (ruefully) at the reaction from one of my students at Curry College when I posed the question regarding a high-profile TV newscaster’s downward trajectory: “What happened?” The student’s almost immediate response, via e-mail: “It’s not in the book.” No curiosity. No attempt at online research. Just a cursory glance at the chapter on television, followed by “It’s not in the book.” I fear academia’s digital emphasis is quashing the very attributes that Fletcher himself cites: “curiosity, reflection, patience, [and] skepticism.” In some students’ eyes, at least, if it’s not in the book, it doesn’t exist.
Kirk Hazlett / Associate Professor Communication/Public Relations at Curry College
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