Meet Ernie. Ernie is a new, ambitious, academically talented sophomore who looks forward to the challenges of Honors/AP courses throughout his three-year Baylor School life. As soon as he takes a look at the course sign-up sheet, however, he finds out that he has somewhat limited choices in choosing his classes. In social studies, for example, the only choice he has is World History II – Regular.
The History department of Baylor School requires that freshmen and sophomores take regular world history courses in order to graduate. Consequently, international freshmen or new sophomores, who are not able to take World History I (international students are required to take English as a Foreign Language instead of World History I in their first year in Baylor), graduate without having a chance to know the first part of world history.
But what if they can have a chance?
If there were an Honors World History course available, it would be a course just like the honors courses of other subjects such as English, mathematics, or science. Students would learn about world history in more depth, receive a more intense workload, and earn an extra two points on their averages as a reward. Also, students would be able to have a studying environment with other similar students.
Another option that the History department might want to consider is AP World History for sophomores. The Advanced Placement programs of the College Board include World History, which is generally offered to high school sophomores throughout the country. One of the first AP subject general high school students encounter, AP World History course covers the materials of Baylor’s World History I and II in one year and in depth. This option of AP World History, therefore, could be quite attractive to those who are not able to take World History I, including new sophomores, and those who want to take an AP course in their sophomore year, including Ernie.
The basic logic behind why this is currently not the case is that Baylor School requires students to take its Regular World History curriculum in their freshman and sophomore years. Furthermore, the school does not offer AP World History to anyone because, given that freshmen and sophomores are already locked in the Regular World History curriculum and juniors in US History, doing so can decrease the demand for other AP social studies courses that it already offers to seniors such as AP Human Geography and AP European History.
As long as the regular World History curriculum stays mandatory, this is true. However, if there are both AP US History and regular US History available, why can’t there be both regular World History and Honors/AP World History? In other words, why should regular World History curriculum necessarily be mandatory?
When this aspect of current history curriculum is applied in a broader context, it suggests that Baylor School is somehow limiting students from developing their own academic profile. The school’s logic is simple: it does not want students to overwhelm themselves in academics but to find a “balance” between academics and other aspects of school life. Partly, the school does not want students to drop such rigorous courses, which involves a great waste of time and effort. The school, however, must note not only that it is the responsibility of the students themselves instead of the school to make a right choice and take the consequence of their actions but also that it is the right of students to have as many available options as possible. The school can recommend students not to overwhelm themselves academically, but it cannot force them not to do so. Such rights of students should outweigh any other concerns and benefits of the school.
This guarantee of students’ rights must be the top priority of the school, the core value of the school’s operation. The school, therefore, should offer students as many academic opportunities as possible, including AP or Honors World History.