A passion for action: Online advocacy calls for AP Gov

Chloe Bishop

On June 2, 2020, most Redwood students’ Instagram feeds were flooded with black squares in a collective movement to stand in solidarity after the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. On Sept. 1, 2021, the Texas state legislature banned abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, and many Redwood feminists attended local protests to show anger at the decision. Throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, teenagers have spread commentary on public behavior and government decisions regarding pandemic protocol and other regulations. There is no doubt that Generation Z and generations to come are as politically active as ever, so why don’t Redwood’s course options reflect this? 

With the pandemic further perpetuating a large cultural shift towards communication via social media, many students have taken to the internet to express their political views or learn more about government-based topics. According to a Tufts University study about pandemic-driven social media politics, “70 percent of young people had gotten information about the 2020 election on social media, and 36 percent reported posting political content in the week prior.” However, popular social media sources can be misleading to students interested in learning about politics. An advanced course in government and politics is where students can form or strengthen educated political views of their own aside from biased online platforms. The regular level Government course will not suffice for the majority of students anymore. Redwood must offer Advanced Placement (AP) United States Government and Politics or “AP Gov.”  

With course selections due Feb. 11, juniors who enjoy and hope to continue a path in humanities-based classes or are interested in politics have found themselves in a tough position. The only option for a passionate social studies student is AP Economics, a year long course. This drives civic-minded students away from in-person government classes and instead prompting them to enroll in AP Gov. on outside platforms, such as with Brigham Young University (BYU), because they don’t have the room in their schedule to dedicate to both, and would choose this AP over no humanities AP at all. With that being said, online courses are expensive — often hundreds of dollars — and require resources that are not accessible to every student, further constraining Redwood’s politically active population. It simply isn’t equitable for only wealthier students to have advanced knowledge about politics. Redwood has an abundance of AP and Honors courses in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) departments such as AP Environmental Science, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Calculus AB and BC, AP Statistics and more. But it is unfair that students with other interests, like social studies, aren’t given the same opportunity to study those topics at a higher level and for college credit with no expense in-person. 

Illustration by Julia Frankus

Schools have the responsibility and potential to inspire and shape the next generation of voting adults in our democracy. However, a self-directed online course will do little to promote civic engagement and would not serve the same purpose as a collaborative classroom environment. With 17 to 24 percent of seniors fulfilling their Gov. requirement outside of Redwood according to census data from the past four years, the best solution is to offer it in person. 

According to the College Board’s AP Gov. Course Framework, “President Eisenhower declared that ‘politics ought to be the part-time profession of every person who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.’” So when Redwood is withholding advanced civic education for students and forcing them to find it on their own, they are restricting a generation of upstanding citizens.

Further, the AP Gov. curriculum established by the College Board involves many skills that students can apply to other areas of study. Because the course is concentrated in reading and writing, it benefits students interested in English, psychology, history, sociology, political science, law and a majority of other fields of study or work.

While social studies teachers may argue that AP Gov. should not be offered at Redwood because current regular Gov. classes are not full as is, this is simply because of the problem mentioned above; that kids are seeking higher-level social studies classes. Should Redwood offer AP Gov., the social studies department would most certainly see a shift to full classes of students eager to learn and participate, an idea all teachers and administration should be in favor of. Plus, given Redwood’s competitive academic climate, it’s fair to say that if this AP class is offered, students will take it. In fact, according to a February 2022 Bark survey, 56 percent of students said they would take AP Gov. if it was offered. 

In 2018, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation published a national survey which found that “only one in three Americans (36 percent) can actually pass a multiple-choice test consisting of items taken from the U.S. Citizenship Test, which has a passing score of 60 [percent].” Statistics like this underscores the necessity of advanced government education for those politically passionate kids.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. has become politically polarized, with both parties growing continuously more radical, partially due to misinformation and the shift to online politics. With social media activists playing a role in this, given their young and impressionable audiences, now is the time for Redwood to step in. Not only would offering AP Gov. help ensure the rising online and offline activism culture at Redwood is free of deception, but it would also provide opportunities for students to dive deeper into their passions, paving the way for their future. If the STEM students can have such an array of options, why can’t we?