SHS lacking in advanced humanities courses

May 30, 2018 — by Anishi Patel

As home to the children of some of the Valley’s top technological minds, it is of little surprise that Saratoga High’s full menu of STEM-oriented classes lives up to expectations. The school offers nine of the 12 AP science, computer science and math courses listed on the College Board website.

But of the 11 Social Science and English AP classes listed, SHS offers only five. Of the eight World Language and Cultures AP classes, SHS offers three.

For a student interested in the humanities, options for growth and challenge are lacking. Oftentimes, humanities students in Silicon Valley are told by well-meaning relatives and other adults that their desired career will never make them enough money to live in the Bay Area, that they need STEM degrees and that if they were to just take AP Computer Science, they’d see that their interests in the humanities are merely hobbies — not viable career paths.

It is hard enough to deviate from traditional Silicon Valley expectations, and the school’s lack of adequate humanities classes and limited language options do not make the situation any easier.

Advanced classes for students interested in the humanities include AP European and US history and AP US Government. Elective choices, such as the journalism and drama programs, do not have any AP-level classes (though they do have Honors classes in the fourth year). With the exception of students interested in Media Arts, the school’s non-STEM oriented students are clearly at a disadvantage GPA-wise.

This forces students who are interested in the humanities to take AP level STEM classes just to compete with the GPAs of STEM-minded students who have the option of taking AP classes relevant to their desired futures.

And this is not to mention the school’s relatively meager offering of three world language options (Chinese, Spanish and French) when classes such as AP Latin, Japanese, German and Italian are listed as options on the College Board website. While language options are limited by interest and student population, Chinese was added as a result of petitioning by parents. The class mushroomed in success, proving that there may be room for more language options in the future.

SHS should follow the example of surrounding schools such as Cupertino High, which offers a wider selection of AP courses, such as AP Psychology and AP Japanese.

Private schools such as Harker offer an even larger selection, complete with semester-long specialized English electives for upperclassmen, due to their larger per-student funding and resources.

These options are unavailable to public schools such as SHS, which require at least 20-25 students to run a class. And since SHS is a smaller public school compared to ones like Los Gatos or Palo Alto, course options are even further limited.

To create more interest in advanced humanities classes, one option is to open them up to freshmen.

Currently, freshmen at SHS can take honors and AP level math courses with the proper qualifications, and for sophomores, the door is opened a little further to include APs such as European History, Music Theory and Computer Science.

While the school claims that limiting AP options for freshmen relieves pressure, a good number highly motivated students are perfectly capable of deciding whether an AP class is the right fit for them, just as well as students from schools like Harker do.

Other classes that might see a surge in interest are ones like AP Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, which would provide better options for students interested in business. Currently, AP Government is the only remotely business-related course offered at the school.

After all, even a global tech center such as Silicon Valley needs talented students of varied areas of interest.  SHS must continue seeking to add enough humanities classes to adequately meet the needs of all students — not just those who are going to major in computer science or engineering.

 

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