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Learning in the Fast LaneThe Past, Present, and Future of Advanced Placement$
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Chester E. Finn and Andrew E. Scanlan

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691178721

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691178721.001.0001

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Advanced Placement Fights the Culture Wars

Advanced Placement Fights the Culture Wars

(p.188) 11 Advanced Placement Fights the Culture Wars
Learning in the Fast Lane

Chester E. Finn

Andrew E. Scanlan

Princeton University Press

This chapter addresses how the Advanced Placement (AP) program became entangled with both partisans and critics of “liberal education.” Conflicts between devotees of liberal education on the one hand and disciplinary specialization on the other—often referred to as “culture wars”—extend far beyond academe, but they are especially intense among university faculty, particularly in the humanities and social sciences—and in the field of education itself. For AP to remain credible with both high schools and colleges, it must balance these contending forces. If an AP class strays too far into the esoteric, subjective, and sometimes doctrinaire realms of many college courses in these fields, it forfeits its ability to provide high school students with a broad and reasonably objective “universal grounding.” However, if it remains a simple survey course, particularly the kind that—in the case of history—concentrates on factual knowledge of things like elections, presidents, and wars, it will no longer convince professors in that field that doing well in it justifies college credit.

Keywords:   Advanced Placement program, liberal education, disciplinary specialization, culture wars, humanities, social sciences, Advanced Placement classes, college credit, high school students

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