New AP Courses to Emphasize Critical Thinking and ResearchFirst of all, no college professor is complaining that students can't "integrate knowledge across a variety of academic disciplines." College professors are trained in the disciplines (in the disciplines, not across the disciplines); they research the disciplines; they teach the disciplines; and they'd like students to come to their classes prepared to do reasonably serious work within the discipline they research and teach, not across the discipline they teach and all the other disciplines they don't teach.
The College Board is piloting two new Advanced Placement courses designed to focus on research skills that admissions counselors say are too often missing in high school graduates.
The new program for juniors and seniors, developed in collaboration with Cambridge International Examinations, will be tested over three years in 15 to 18 high schools starting this fall, the College Board announced today.
The AP/Cambridge Interdisciplinary Investigations and Critical Reasoning Seminar will be offered in 11th grade. Students will work in teams to research and write topics of global relevance. Each school can choose its own topic and pair different disciplines, such as history and English.
The AP/Cambridge Capstone Research Project taken in 12th grade involves writing a 4,500 to 5,000-word paper that will be evaluated on the students' ability to design, plan, and manage a research project, analyze information, and communicate their findings.
Trevor Packer, senior vice president of Advanced Placement and College Readiness for the College Board, says college admissions officers who sit on both organizations' advisory boards discussed the need for these types of courses. "They said U.S. students are not coming to college having developed research skills and the ability to integrate knowledge across a variety of academic disciplines," he says.
By Caralee Adams on March 5, 2012 5:47 PM
History professors aren't sitting around complaining their students don't know enough math, and math professors aren't sitting around complaining their students don't know enough history. No. History professors complain their students don't know history, math professors complain their students don't know math. (comma splice intentional)
Second, I tend to doubt college admissions officers came up with this idea on their own, though I wouldn't put it past them. More likely they're surfing the zeitgeist like everyone else, the zeitgeist being determined, for reasons unbeknownst to me, by Tony Wagner.
Third, I sat in on a Cambridge Pre-U global-shmobal course in a neighboring district, and it was wretched. Wretched! The course lasted a year and a half, replaced ELA, and involved no assigned reading whatsoever, and virtually no reading above the level of simple news stories and op-eds students found on Google. Students worked in groups -- group Googling, has anyone written a Prezi presentation on that? -- then gave group Powerpoints to the rest of the class during which they examined each item for possible bias: this was critical thinking.
One of the groups presenting that day had found a relevant article in Haaretz, so, seeing as how Haaretz is an Israeli newspaper, they reported to the class that the Haaretz article might be biased against Arabs. Apparently, when you are thinking critically, you take it as a given that anything written by anyone anywhere in Israel should be suspected of bias against Arabs; and that, furthermore, a suspected bias against Arabs should be first foremost on your mind. The fact that Haaretz is a liberal paper, and might thus be accused by some of 'bias' against, for instance, Israeli settlers, did not come up. (For the record, I have no idea what Haaretz is or is not, or might or might not be, biased for or against, or who thinks what about the paper and its writers. And I wouldn't presume to speculate.)
As I recall, the group concluded that the Haaretz article was not biased, mostly because the writer's prose stye was flat and factual-sounding.
All the topics were global, and none of the topics would be addressed within the boundaries of a discipline. Or even across the boundaries of the disciplines, in the case of "Technology and Islamophobia in France."
Technology and Islamophobia in France seemed to be one of four topics students could choose from. (When I told Ed about the Technology-and-Islamophobia option, he said, "Did anyone think critically about the concept of 'Islamophobia'?) Not only is there no discipline that studies Technology-and-Islamophobia-in-France, but judging by what the kids had managed to come up with online even Google doesn't have much to say on the subject.
One of the articles the students reviewed was about surveillance cameras in French airports, as I recall. The presence of surveillance cameras in French airports had to do with Islamophobia in France because there are a lot of Muslims in France, and the French were having a debate about Muslim girls wearing headscarves in school. The headscarf controversy was the subject of another article the students reviewed, an op ed written in strong and emotional language, which led the students to conclude that the author of that piece was biased.
Here's an Eastchester version of the course. The Eastchester class has some assigned texts and consumes only a year, not a year and a half.