The College Board Trolls for Home-Schoolers
The College Board, which already grabs much information about a student's family from the questionnaire which the student must answer in order to take the SAT, is now trolling for homeschooled students to take the Advanced Placement (AP) tests, which are offered on myriad subjects.
Perhaps the AP web page dedicated to homeschoolers is a sign of the times. Perhaps we home-school parents should tell ourselves that we've come a long way, baby.
Or perhaps not.
Parents, beware! Either a homeschooling parent will have taught any given subject with such a different focus that the student will have difficulty in taking the test, or the parent will find herself "teaching to the test" and depriving her child of the balanced information that is one of the hallmarks of a home-school education.
A review of a suggested AP Art History curriculum and accompanying sample test provide a subtle example by which the gentle reader may ease into this shocking discovery. The Art History curriculum is finite, and yet it provides much emphasis on non-Western art -- including Islamic art, which is beautiful, but which might not be an appropriate area of focus for the average American homeschooler.
A sample question which deals with Western art asks the student to fill in the end of the following sentence: "Mary Cassatt demonstrated a keen interest in (A) landscapes of Italy, (B) animal paintings, (C) Hudson River scenes, or (D) Japanese prints."
Now, Mary Cassatt focused on the lives of women; she painted gorgeous portraits of mothers and their children. Sometimes there were pets in the pictures -- so is the answer B? Cassatt lived for years in France, which is near Italy, so is the answer A? Cassatt came from Pennsylvania, which neighbors New York, so is the answer C? No, the answer is D, because more than halfway through her life, she saw a Japanese art exhibit which moved her to imitate somewhat the techniques used in Japan.
Yes, the inspiration is visible in a number of her works. Yet, by the AP question, Cassatt, an American feminist in the best sense of the word, is reduced to an artistic dilettante.
The AP US Government and Politics web page shows how a student's grade is determined. Five to 15% of the test refers to the "Constitutional Underpinnings" of the U.S. government. For the other 85%-95%, "public opinion" becomes a recurrent theme.
The AP European History test sample appears sophisticated almost to the point of being esoteric. However, one of the more comprehensible questions shares a quotation from Thomas Malthus, an early population control theorist.
A pleasant surprise is a review of the AP English Language and Composition sample exams. Students read short texts and then answer questions regarding the texts. Here is a portion of a quoted essay by social critic Neil Postman: "What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one." Still, the test might not share the subject and author emphases which a home-school parent might have for her child.
Rather than preparing to take an AP test, taking a community college course for dual high school and college credit might be a more satisfying option for the average home-school student.
Marianna Trzeciak skipped a year of college because of high AP scores, but she does not recommend the AP tests to her own children.