I hate AP Capstone. Here’s why.

Stick with me until the end. Despite the belief that humans have the attention span of a goldfish, I think we're smart enough to read a long, but good, piece of writing when we see one. This piece is important. I think you'll see why.

Fishers+High+School+will+always+hold+a+special+place+in+my+heart.+It%27s+played+a+part+in+raising+me+-+but+that+doesn%27t+mean+I+agree+with+its+ideology+every+step+of+the+way.+The+school%27s+dedication+to+the+AP+Capstone+program+is+something+I+will+always+disagree+with+them+on.
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I hate AP Capstone. Here’s why.

Fishers High School will always hold a special place in my heart. It's played a part in raising me - but that doesn't mean I agree with its ideology every step of the way. The school's dedication to the AP Capstone program is something I will always disagree with them on.

Fishers High School will always hold a special place in my heart. It's played a part in raising me - but that doesn't mean I agree with its ideology every step of the way. The school's dedication to the AP Capstone program is something I will always disagree with them on.

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Fishers High School will always hold a special place in my heart. It's played a part in raising me - but that doesn't mean I agree with its ideology every step of the way. The school's dedication to the AP Capstone program is something I will always disagree with them on.

Photo labeled for reuse by Wikipedia.

Photo labeled for reuse by Wikipedia.

Fishers High School will always hold a special place in my heart. It's played a part in raising me - but that doesn't mean I agree with its ideology every step of the way. The school's dedication to the AP Capstone program is something I will always disagree with them on.

By Ellie Albin, Fishers High School

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I’m not a great student. Seriously. I haven’t ever been, really.

I’ve certainly had my moments – don’t get me wrong. I’ve done exceptionally well in some courses. But, in terms of what I think my standards should be, I’ve also done exceptionally poorly. 

You could say that it all comes down to perspective, I guess. The “C-” I received in Algebra II last year is one of the biggest failures of my life. 

But, to someone else? That “C-” might be a godsend.

So, okay: maybe I’m at least a decent student. But I don’t think I’ve really learned much. And I’m struggling to find out if learning is actually the point of an education.

I started writing this opinion with the belief that I’d be writing solely about my experience in the AP Capstone program, which consists of two courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. And, if you hadn’t guessed already, I hate the AP Capstone program. 

With my whole heart.

But, I slowly realized that the fact that I was restarting this piece over and over meant, well, that something was wrong – obviously. 

At first, I thought it meant that I was afraid of hurting someone’s, or multiple someones’, feelings. You can call me a weak and frail journalist all you want, but when it comes to the two teachers in the AP Capstone program at FHS, I could never bash them. Especially just for some opinion piece for a high school online news source – it just isn’t worth potentially (even though both aren’t easily offended – to a fault, sometimes) hurting their feelings.

Plus, they’re good teachers. Some of the best I’ve ever had or will ever have. To bash them wouldn’t only be rude, but it wouldn’t even be remotely true.

So, I had to rethink: if they’re not the problem, why do I hate AP Capstone? 

It’s always easy to blame a teacher – which I had ruled out. Almost instantly.

Sometimes, and I think more often than not, it has to do with the course. And the design of said course.

And the student taking that course.

And the student’s commitment and willingness to be a good student within the course.

…And that’s when I realized I was the problem. I am the reason I hate AP Capstone. 

Partially.

I realized this past week, after having a meeting with Principal Urban, that I will never be a normal student. I will never be able to pass a class easily. Not because I’m not smart, but I’m unmotivated to reap the rewards of the public education system. Because, to me, the rewards of being a good student in high school aren’t really rewards. They just seem like a rite of passage. Or maybe a waste of time.

The ultimate reward for your hard work at a place like FHS is college, supposedly. I’ve applied to about seven of those, and I wish I could honestly say that I jump for joy each time I get an acceptance letter. I wish I could say I experience euphoria. True, undeniable, genuine happiness.

But, I don’t. Because I don’t know if college is supposed to be in my future.

I read a lot of posts on Instagram that bash professors (and rightfully so) who pridefully say “not many people pass my class.”

Like, no. No.

NO.

Just stop. Every time I read a post like that, a jolt of anger pulses through me to the point where I bite my tongue and can hear my heart rapidly beating.

Education was never supposed to be like this. I was never supposed to fear college because I feared it would be a repeat of high school – schools bragging about the difficulty of their courses.

Schools bragging about how well their students do. 

Students competing to be the best. 

Students “learning” to win, not really learning to understand.

And that is why I hate AP Capstone.

And it took writing this to figure it out.

AP Capstone is like a college prep course. All these adults tell us how great we are for thinking about our future. For learning how to write research papers now. For getting ahead of our peers. About how they wish they had this when they were in school.

Buddy. Oh, buddy.

No you don’t.

I have been bred to compete. To memorize. To think ahead. To always go “above and beyond.” To never be tired. To always be a leader. 

And, along the way, I forgot to learn.

At school, guys. 

For over a decade. 

I forgot to learn. 

It’s the saddest paradox I’ve ever felt. 

AP Capstone is the symbol – the epitome – of everything I despise about education. It’s all about making sure we’re more prepared than our fellow peers when we go into college. Three of the four reasons College Board lists as to why students should take AP Seminar and AP Research involve the word “college,” and the other reason they list involves becoming an “independent thinker.”

Isn’t it sad to think that, by the age of 15 or 16 or 17 or 18 or whatever, a high schooler hasn’t become an independent thinker?

Well, sadly, it’s true. 

There aren’t independent thinkers in high school. We’ve all become slaves to a system that will eventually funnel us into, hopefully, the college of our choice. 

I read this beautiful little essay recently. It was written by a girl who has attended Montessori school her whole life – and had entered the world of public school.

And she nailed exactly what it’s like to be a 21st century high school “scholar.”

The writer went into a fair amount of detail of what she hears on the grounds of her high school every day in Portland, Oregon. From students competing on the matter of who got less sleep, to a teacher that grades unbelievably hard but wishes he didn’t have to give grades (yeah, right, buster), to herself being complimented by teachers on something as small as thinking outside the box (because everyone else has lost the ability to), this chick has heard it all.

And so have I. 

I feel like there’s nothing more I need to say. I’ve tried to speak for four years, but my voice is starting to fade. “The Scientist” just came up on Spotify, the light at my desk is slowly starting to illuminate my workspace more and more as the sun falls outside my windows, and my eyelids are getting heavy. The exhaustion of my years in high school are finally culminating, finally catching up to me, finally putting me to sleep, and the perfect soundtrack has finally come on to send me into the years of slumber I need to make up.

But, this moment has come many times, and I have never been able to act on it. Because, after all, there is always one more grade to worry about, one more college to get into, one more teacher to impress, and one more excellent student I need to take out, as they are standing in the way of my future.

Because it’s all a competition, right? Right.

Thank you, AP Capstone. You taught me exactly who not to be. This is me, officially, sitting here, at my desk, throwing in the towel.

And I thank you for that.

Goodnight, high school. I don’t know what my future is. But it certainly isn’t you – and if college is any ounce of what high school is like, I don’t want any part of it. If college is just about preparing me for my career, as high school was just about preparing me for college, then I don’t want you in my life.

I want to learn. I want to learn so one day I know what it feels like to be truly happy. And I don’t think a 21st century education can provide that. AP Capstone certainly can’t.

This story was originally published on N the Red on December 5, 2019.