I strongly disagree with Michael Mendillo’s argument of not letting high school courses count for college credit. He argues:
Advanced Placement courses are taken by students 15 to 18 years old. At those stages in their education, students focus on remembering facts and, under the best possible situations, learning the methods of assembling and evaluating those facts. For high-school students who do well in, say, AP physics, that would be a terrific start to being a physics major. They could enroll in the highest introductory-level freshman physics course offered. The original goal of the AP concept would have worked.
For students not majoring in science, however, that same success has quite a different consequence. Lost to these nonscience students is an exposure to cutting-edge science and the methods of science taught by professors active on a daily basis in their exploration of nature. In how many AP classes in high school does the physics instructor say, “At the last American Physical Society meeting, one of my students presented a paper on this very topic”? Or, in an astronomy class, “My upcoming observations using the Hubble Space Telescope will address this dark-energy issue”? Identical scenarios exist, of course, for science and engineering students who miss out on university-level introductions to the humanities and social sciences taught by active scholars in those areas.
The end result is that in many introductory college courses, the top students are simply not in the classrooms. For them, faculty-student interactions are not possible and the overall value of a university education is diminished. All of these aspects of educational disservice are due to the existence of the AP system.
I took ten AP courses in my high school. The remarkable difference between the AP courses and the regular (“gifted”) courses I took was that the AP courses were significantly more difficult, thorough, and taught students invaluable comprehension skills (rather than rote memorization). I believe that AP courses are actually superior to many freshman college courses. In an AP course, you are instructed five days a week for a semester (and two semesters for subjects like biology and chemistry). You can’t compare that to college courses taught three times a week and condensed into one semester.
The AP exam is a three hour duel; it is more comprehensive than the typical college final. If you received a 5 on AP Biology or AP Calculus, I have no doubt in my mind that you know your stuff and should rightly get the chance to skip these introductory courses in college. I did and I never regretted my decision. In fact, because I exempted out of so many introductory college courses, I was able to take fewer courses every semester, which allowed me to devote more attention to each of my classes than I otherwise could have done with a denser schedule. As a result, I asked more inquisitive questions, had a chance to work on extracurricular problems, and learned the material more deeply than if I never got my AP credits.
What do you think? If you’ve taken AP courses and did well on them, how did you feel about exempting those courses in college?