The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

MVHS Should Offer Seniors AP Economics and AP Government

Mountain View High School is stuck between two core responsibilities: give students as many course options as possible or maximize diversity within classes. Currently, seniors at Mountain View High School, unlike those at LAHS, are offered neither AP US Government and Politics nor AP Microeconomics. With the goal of making classes more heterogeneous, the MVHS Social Studies Department keeps virtually all seniors in the same classes senior year.

However, this policy limits student choice, preventing passionate students from picking a course that can challenge and interest them. Though it is hard to choose between giving students options and exposing them to the diversity that is present when all students are required to take the same class, MVHS should move towards offering AP Government and AP Economics. Rather than forcing diversity by not offering APs, the school should make the AP classes themselves more diverse.

Despite their detriments, mixed classes are used at our school as well, namely in freshman year classes. Virtually all freshmen take World Studies and Survey Comp/Lit, allowing students to adjust to high school and meet a variety of people before sorting themselves based on skill and interest.

“We have four feeder schools that come into Los Altos High School. They’re diverse, and we like the idea of bringing all freshman in together and having a heterogeneous experience,” history teacher DeeDee Pearce said about World Studies. “After that, they all start going in different paths.”

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By senior year, students are in a different position. They largely know where their interests lie, and should be able to choose classes that they are passionate about.
The idea of mixing upperclassmen together should not be immediately dismissed. In a class like civics, a variety of voices enrich the debate. In a mixed class, each student can learn that his or her voice matters just as much as her neighbor’s.

This variety could get lost with the addition of AP Government. AP classes tend to attract fewer Latino students and more Asian students, in addition to students who are more comfortable with the advanced curriculum. If these students take mostly AP classes, then they are isolated from non-AP students.

Having mandatory civics and economics courses senior year gives upperclassmen an opportunity to be in a class where they hear the voices of all their peers.

“We want them to recognize that they live in a diverse community,” MVHS civics teacher Felitia Hancock said at the March 24 School Board meeting about her department’s decision not to offer AP Government. “This is the classroom where we break down all those barriers that exist, whether it’s peer group or socioeconomic status or race.”

But, despite the benefits of only offering mixed classes, it is unfair to not give MVHS students an AP option. For college-bound students, the rigor of an AP class is excellent preparation for what is ahead, as well as offering the chance to potentially receive college credit. While MVHS offers many AP science options, the selection in the humanities can be lacking. During senior year, students interested in social studies do not have as many options as those interested in STEM. AP Government and AP Economics could fill that gap.

Additionally, though valid for civics, the heterogenous class philosophy does not apply as well to economics. Students likely have less life experience with monopolies than with politics, so discussions aren’t truly enriched by varied students. Adding AP Economics would only offer a choice for students who find the subject interesting or want a challenge, not reduce the quality of class discussions.

MVHS should focus on increasing the classroom’s diversity without eliminating AP courses. They should continue with their goal of encouraging AP classes to be places where students of all socioeconomic, social and ethnic groups are represented.

“If you want the classes to be more heterogeneous,” AP Economics teacher Derek Miyahara said, “then the answer is to try to figure out how to encourage underrepresented kids to be in the AP class. We should be in the business of encouraging all of our kids to take the most challenging curriculum that they can.”

In order to balance their twin responsibilities to students—giving them options, yet exposing them an education full of diverse opinions—the MVHS Social Studies Department should move to offer AP Government and AP Economics, but also continue to work towards increasing minority representation in AP classes.

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re not forcing anybody into AP,” MVLA School Board Member Phil Faillace said. “But if we don’t offer the course we’re forcing them out of it.”

Staff writer Alex Barreira also contributed to this article.

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