the wings of gods Struggle
vainly against the rebellious flight
that twists and turns in a
Magical, Swirling Dance
of Strange Sorrow and
hopeless hope.

One cannot be led into that for which one is not prepared.
And no manner of force can prepare one for that which one refuses to accept.
The struggle for life and the struggle for death intermingle
and neither will succeed in the end.
-- Cristin Yaxley

Manifesto of an AP student

by Elisabeth Adams
29 April 1999

An open letter to my AP English teacher:

A while back, I was complaining about having to turn in rough drafts of my essays; I write in such a way that I am constantly revising in a non-linear fashion, until I arrive at something decent enough to show others. You wanted me to try anyway because you wanted a glimpse into how I thought.

Attached is exhibit A, the three page, hand written beginnings of an essay attempting to explain exactly what I thought of AP tests in general and why I will not be taking any but calculus and French in particular. I spent the hour I was supposed to use to finish up the two practice AP essays writing it, because I wanted to get it down and perhaps thereby persuade you that I have a legitimate reason not to take even more standardized tests.

What I found myself doing instead is illustrating the fundamental failing of AP tests that I was trying to describe: the artificiality of expecting a student in forty minutes to form and express a reasoned, coherent, and concise opinion on some heretofore unknown subject. I found an hour still wasn't enough for me to properly form and state my argument, and this is an issue to which I have already given a great deal of thought. Sure, in forty minutes I could come up with any old opinion and argue it reasonably well, but I dislike this teaching of snap judgements, this delusion that one can grasp the entirety of a wealth of foreign ideas in one pass.

The essay as it now stands would require many more pages before I would be able to conclude it properly, and I do not feel like taking any more time on what is in my view a dead issue. I wanted to be sure that I had properly stated my reasons here, however, so that there would be no confusion as to why I have come to my decision, and as brevity is the soul of wit I shall contain myself to this one page.

1. It's not about money. I couldn't care less about the money. I will even be paying not to take the comparative government exam.

2. The purpose of AP classes may be greater challenge, but AP tests have the main purpose of giving college credit. If a college does not take the grades, then they are not potential credits, not investments of time, effort, and money, but simply numbers on paper.

3. There comes a point and time when one realizes that one has enough paper credentials to satisfy both self and school, and having a 1600 SAT, three 5's on previous AP's, a 4.78 GPA, and an acceptance letter with grants to match to Caltech I believe I have a right to view any additional high school tests as gravy, to be taken only for really good reasons.

4. It is the right of the student and the student only to decide whether or not to take a particular test mainly in gratitude to a particular teacher, and teachers should not pressure the student into taking the test simply for their own self-validation. I can't live my life for other people.

5. Contrary to the common opinion that everything comes "naturally" to me, I spend a lot of time and effort on my education. I am trying to fight my habit of minimizing the effort I exert for school, because although it may seem as if I never study in a way I have been preparing all my life by reading good books and generally caring about what I'm learning. I do not do half-hearted jobs; if I say I will do something, I will do it right, and that takes time. This is why the AP's are more than just a three hour commitment; and I believe that I have a better use for the next three weeks than cramming last-minute information that will be forgotten when I turn in the test.

6. I would like to move on to something new. You know and I know that I am quite capable of getting a 5 on all of the tests I am signed up for, save only the comparative government; but I also realize that it would take too much time and energy in for such a little return out. The numbers mean nothing to me, nothing, nor the hastily remembered facts that shall soon slip unheeded from my skull; but perhaps in the coming weeks I may read a book that will stick with me the rest of my life, or write about something real and capture a glimmer of truth, or take pictures of the moon that will last forever. Or perhaps I will just spend the last few weeks of my high school career relaxing. Let the pressure come when it must; but I do not want to create artificial anxieties for myself when I could simply live life instead.

© Elisabeth Adams. Hand-coded since 1998. Universal Rights Reserved.