What’s Wrong with Boston?

The writers of Boston Legal are at it again.  A few months ago, the plot line went after NCLB.  This week’s episode (thank you, DVR) centers its attack on the American high school.  Now, we have a mother suing her late daughter’s high school, alleging that the rigors of high school were responsible for her daughter’s “driving while drowsy” death.

Like the NCLB episode, we have a Boston high school full of overachievers.  This time, lawyers are attacking the high school experience because kids are working too hard.  They are taking too many AP courses.  They are involved in too many extracurriculars.  They all want to be tops in their class, and they all want to attend Harvard.  

While I still want to find this Boston high school that seems to be all white with a 100% graduation rate and every kid moving onto postsecondary education, I just have to let it go.  But there was one line that was truly disturbing.

In attacking the rigor of the high school, the mother’s lawyer asks why do we need to offer AP courses at all? Those are college courses, she says, they should be offered in college and not in high school.  Of course, the school’s principal agrees, and placed the blame on the students.  If we didn’t offer all those AP classes, the principal says, kids would just go to a different high school that would meet their needs.

Eduflack doesn’t know which is more ridiculous, the cavalier notion of school choice or the disdain for AP courses.  Let’s leave the former alone, knowing it is an absurd statement without any ground in reality.  The latter is just as frustrating, seeking to place blame on a solution, rather than a problem.

Just last week, we saw that more students are taking AP classes than ever before.  Whether they secure a four or five on the exam is irrelevant.  These students are able to experience college-level instruction before they get to college.  They get to learn if they are up to the rigors of a college-level exam.  They get to explore new subjects.  And they get the opportunity to earn college credits or exemptions from college requirements.

No one is saying a high school junior or senior should be taking five or seven AP courses each semester.  But if they have the interest and the ability, they should be allowed to push themselves and see what they are capable of.  They should be given the opportunity to succeed, rather than given the an excuse to fail.

Many can say we are where we are in public education because of low expectations.  A decade or two ago, students were lucky if they could take two or three AP courses during high school.  Today, schools can offer dozens of such courses.  That’s a good thing, not a reason to attack well-meaning high schools.

Maybe the writers for Boston Legal should go in and take a real tour of real Boston’s public schools before they use them for another plot line or as a punchline to another joke.  Those TV junkies will remember a great little Fox drama called Boston Public, set in a Beantown public high school.  If memory serves, those writers seemed to get what public education was all about.  Maybe they can offer a little primer to James Spader and company.  Or we could just keep education on the news pagers, instead of the TV reviews.


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