As students progress through their four years of high school, they often claim the division between “easy, lazy” College Preparation (CP) classes versus “difficult, intellectual” Advanced Placement (AP) classes becomes increasingly obvious. This division leads some to wonder if schools themselves are enabling a social system that creates an elitist attitude toward education.
Believing himself to be stronger in math and sciences, junior Manvir Dhaliwal enrolled in AP Calculus BC and AP Chemistry and opted out of AP English for the 2018-2019 school year. After seeing the overall difference in class levels, Dhaliwal found himself unchallenged in what he perceived to be a vicious cycle.
“The main factor is the attitude of the people taking these classes,” Dhaliwal said. “The lack of effort shown by the students has a negative effect on the teacher. When [teachers] don’t see results, they get unmotivated.”
“With AP [students], they’re focused,” CP and AP math teacher Eric Vallecillo said of the difference between classes. “There’s still some silliness, but overall, there’s an expectation to do well, and then even in [AP], there’s cheating or copying homework to get that grade boost, but there is a real desire to do [the work]. CP — a lot of times — it’s kids who, especially with Integrated 1 or High School Math, think ‘I have to be here so I just have to get through it.’”
Some students enrolled in AP classes say that taking advanced classes is the only way to be recognized by elite colleges. Similarly, some students in CP classes do not take a leap of faith and schedule advanced classes because they believe that they’re not capable of succeeding in a higher level class.
This polarizing climate is filled with stereotypes and generalizations. While some generalizations may remain true, many students do not join the “elitists” because they are intimidated by the AP facade.
“I was going to sign up for AP English,” senior Marissa Rodriguez said, but “I felt like if I was in that class, people would just look at me and be like, ‘Why are you here? You don’t know anything’ and that’s what ruins it for a lot of people wanting to go to AP.”
Will this division between AP and CP students ever diminish? Most students are skeptical.
“Within the AP student circle, being called a ‘CP student’ is generally an insult to someone’s intelligence,” Dhaliwal said. “The mindset of some AP students, especially the ones who use the CP insult, is that of someone who has to prove that they are better than someone who could be of equal intellect.”
Others say these differences can be bridged.
“I feel like [AP and CP] students themselves can get along well, it’s just they don’t get the chance since most friendships are formed through shared periods,” junior Joseph Manivong said.
However, there seems to be a fixable problem in the school system; oftentimes, students feel underworked in a CP class but are unable to handle the rigor of the AP curriculum — there’s no middle ground. Junior Mark Metrovich dropped from AP English Language and Composition to CP English 11 after the first semester and sees a significant difference between CP and AP classes.
“The jump from CP to AP is ridiculously large,” Metrovich said. “Some of the things that we’re doing in CP, I have known since Pre-AP English 9, so for me, I could have been doing this CP 11 work as a freshman.”
“It’s sad because there are a lot of CP kids who do want to do well, but there’s no middle ground between CP and AP,” Vallecillo said.
A similar issue can be found between Bear Creek’s agricultural department and the rest of the science department. Many students in the agriculture classes say they are looked down upon by students enrolled in CP and AP science classes.
Senior Alexsis Altheide has been involved in the agriculture classes for all four years in high school and has witnessed positive and negative — mostly negative — views on the program.
“[My peers] didn’t understand why I was in [agriculture] and would say that it was stupid and that what we do is dumb,” Altheide said of her peers’ reactions.
An often unspoken reason behind the division is the varying plans that students have for life after high school. For many students, attending any type of education beyond high school is more important than specifically attending a four-year college. Many Bear Creek students are socioeconomically unstable and simply do not have the same options as their peers. Others do not see the need to obtain a degree past a high school diploma.
“Not everyone has to go to a four-year [college] and do all of those years of schooling,” Rodriguez said. “Not everyone needs to go down that road, and that’s what I think CP students — a lot of them — are like.”