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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

AP Lang: Philosophy or literary analysis?

Around the country, the AP Language and Composition (AP Lang) class is usually taught as a largely fictional course with the occasional snippet of nonfiction and test prep.

Saratoga High, by contrast, is one of the few that largely centers on a nonfictional curriculum, mainly on philosophy.

Some have wondered whether Saratoga’s minority approach is a good thing. I would say it is, for two reasons. 

The popularity of the class shows a lot about how student appeal to the unique curriculum. Of the current 300-plus senior class, over a third take AP Lang. The vast number of class attendees suggests one thing: Students want to try something new in English. 

If AP Lang was integrated with fictional reading and analysis, I doubt that the anyone would take the class other than for AP credit.

Furthermore, if the Lang class here was similar to courses of local schools such as Cupertino, Los Gatos and Monta Vista, there would barely be any differentiation between the course and an English 12 course. AP Lang would lose its one-of-a-kind appeal, and fewer students would enjoy it.   

According to AP Lang teacher Jason Friend, students also generally have a positive response to the course according to year-end surveys. 

Another factor would be the differences in the class content. I found the first three years of English here too repetitive; every year, students are expected to memorize excruciating numbers of vocabulary words and grammar rules while writing the same style of argumentative essay.

One may argue that these years are to prepare students for college-level English courses. That is true, but the same cycle of reading a book, writing journals on themes related to the book and discussing it in great detail in preparation for a test or a Socratic seminar gets old.

AP Lang provides quite a difference. The class requires lots of free thinking and the ability to take divergent stances, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them. 

Readings in AP Lang force seniors to question some part of themselves to make the decision of agreeing or disagreeing with the philosopher’s points.  From discussions about the existence of God to readings on personal identity, I have learned to question the fundamentals of my world. 

As second-semester seniors, we are no longer the brain-dead juniors we used to be; we are free to soar with a  diverse and challenging curriculum.

Of course, philosophy is not the only way to teach AP Lang effectively. However, the AP Lang curriculum at Saratoga has been an unqualified success, with a large majority passing the AP test every year. 

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