Friday, December 5, 2008

Topic: Advanced Placement (AP) Programs

What’s Wrong with the Advanced Placement (AP) Language and Composition Program?

10-second review: What’s “wrong” is the focus on sentence manipulation in objective tests, timed writing, and formalist [“New Critics”] approaches to reading literature.

Title: Review of Advanced Placement English: Theory, Politics and Pedagogy. Ed. Gary A. Olson, et al. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1989. Reviewed by D W Chapman. College Composition and Communication (December 1990), 477-478. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote: “Because the [AP] Language and Composition Exam relies upon sentence manipulation skills and timed writing, assignments, AP teachers are discouraged from emphasizing the writing process. Students and teachers are well aware that, under the constraints of the examination, revision will be reduced to proofreading, and peer editing will be construed to be cheating. [David] Foster also observes that the AP Literature and Composition Exam is inconsistent with current critical theory because it relies so heavily on formalist approaches to the [literary] text. The teacher who acknowledges that readers must make meaning from the text [i.e., uses personal experience to interpret the text, RayS.] is also the teacher who must prepare students for an exam that presupposes… [the New Critics’—no personal experience is relevant –approach to interpreting the literary work, RayS.].”

Comment: More dichotomies in English: writing process vs. timed writing and New Critics vs. transactional [Rosenblatt] approaches to literary interpretation. Resolve these dichotomies by using both approaches. We’re not “training” students for the test. We are educating students who will have to take the test. Teachers can use both the writing process and practice timed writing, and use both the New Critics’ approach to explication and the personal response approach to interpretation of literary works. When will educators stop setting up either/or situations? RayS.

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