For the academically inclined, Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses are an essential part of a high school education. They provide the structure and rigor necessary to satiate the eternally burning fire that is academic passion. However, the Paly curriculum is profoundly focused on providing advanced classes to students in hard science and mathematics courses.
For the typical Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) focused Silicon Valley Student this discrepancy in advanced course availability is likely not an issue. But for Paly students whose academic interests stand in contrast to the average, having reduced access to advanced coursework than their STEM oriented peers is a constant reminder that Paly is a loyal subscriber to the practice of social science devaluation.
Paly is aware, as shown by its mission statement, that its core educational duty is “[to] affirm the potential of every Palo Alto High School student…” but completely fails to realize this duty by neglecting to provide equal access to advanced coursework. No student should have his or her right to the pursuit of their educational goals severely hampered by a fundamental lack of fairness. Why should the academic interests of a young scholar influence their ability to challenge themselves?
Besides the inherent injustice of the existence of this disparity in course availability, there are also several other consequences which may befall social science lovers.
The first is a reduced weighted Grade Point Average (wGPA). For students who don’t want to take honors mathematics or science courses, the number of opportunities for increasing your wGPA are severely reduced. Instead of being able to take honors math and science courses through sophomore and junior year, the first honors course available are found in junior year when most students have the opportunity to take English 11H. Before this the only non-STEM advanced courses available are language courses. Why should students with passions for the social sciences be delayed in their quest to academic fulfillment?
Another significant consequence of advanced course disparity is that students with talent and passion in the social sciences are forced to move at a pace significantly slower than they are capable of. Just as we don’t force talented mathematicians to take regular math courses for their first two years, we should not be forcing talented writers to move at the pace of their peers, many of whom are just looking to get a good grade and get out. This practice simply cements the fact that the social sciences are second class subjects at Paly. They aren’t as well supported, and aren’t considered as rigorous or worthwhile, as proven by the lack of support for advanced social science courses.
While Paly is currently adding honors designations to certain Advanced Journalism courses and adding an AP Language course available to both juniors and Seniors, they have yet to address the disparity amongst underclassmen honors courses. It does seem that they are moving towards the right direction, but much more must be done to address this inequality before Paly can honestly say they are meeting their mission statement.