December 21, 2009

Advanced Placement Tests

The New York Times holds a discussion on whether too many Advanced Placement courses and/or tests are being offered to high school students.

Leaving aside for the moment the more subtle issues (some of which are explored surprisingly well in the discussion), I noticed in the NYT's comments a "B.P." who makes one helluva case for the basic existence of Advanced Placement testing:
I was the first person in my extended family (35 siblings and first cousins in this generation) to graduate from a 4 year university. My parents both left high school at age 16. My father finished high school by correspondence, my mother has her GED. I was raised in a religious minority with lower U.S. college attendance rates than the Native American population (per Pew research). As late as my last semester of high school, I doubted whether I would be able to attend college upon high school graduation.

I was also the (male) AP State Scholar from AZ for 1994. I qualified for free AP exams based on family income level, and I took all offered AP courses consistent with my schedule as well as taking exams in several other areas where AP courses were not offered. The 63 credits I earned in this fashion allowed me to complete a BS in Electrical Engineering in 3.5 years, while taking a light enough (12-15 semester hour) course load that I could schedule all of my classes for two or three day schedules, allowing me to work 3-4 days per week, while continuing to spend roughly 20 hours per week in religious activities. While supplemented by an AZ tuition waiver (class rank based) to attend a state school, a National Merit Scholarship, and proximity to campus (4 miles from ASU), this course credit was the key factor which allowed me to make the case to my father that I would be able to continue to work in the family business while attending college for an unextended period, and it wouldn't cost him a dime, nor would we incur debt.

Had my high school (with its roughly 50% dropout rate) not had an extensive AP program, I have no doubt that I would not have gone to college. I would currently be a sub-par unemployed electrician, instead of a registered professional engineer for the past 9 years. I would be looking for a job rather than having been employed in 5 progressively more responsible engineering positions at the same utility over the past 11 years. At least three family members would currently not own the houses they are living in, my youngest sister wouldn't have graduated from ASU, and I would currently be worring about how to support my parents in retirement.

... Denying students opportunity is no service to students or society.

Sounds like the hero of a Heinlein juvenile novel from 1958.

I wonder which "religious minority" is this fellow from? Polygamous Mormon? Jehovah's Witnesses? Syrian Jewish? Shi'ite? Mennonite? There are a lot of clues in his comment (which can be read in full here), but I haven't been able to come up with a good guess.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd argue maybe he shouldn't have went to college if he can't cut the apron strings to whatever this outfit is.

Anonymous said...

Hard to guess, I'm automatically assuming he's white, probably from somewhere on the Mennonite/Amish spectrum. The polygamous Mormons would shun him, I think, for going too far into the outside society. Jehovah Witness members, Shiites, Adventists and other such groups are usually too far below average, in my experience, to field a young person who is this bright. And the correct answer is?

Anonymous said...

Has to be Mormon. Relatively common in AZ, and worse off.

Steve Sailer said...

No, I don't know what B.P.'s religious background is.

Airtommy has helpfully found a link to B.P.'s professional networking page.

Thanks.

B.P. has what looks to me like a Scandinavian last name ending in "-sen."

I won't post the link though for privacy reasons. If you are interested enough to search for it, it wouldn't be too hard to find. I'll leave it like this on the assumption that people who are smart and energetic tend to be more well-intentioned than people who aren't.

The Holy Church of the Fonz said...

I'd guess he's from something Pew calls "The Church of God Cleveland", a group of people evidently so stupid that they think the black neighbor from Family Guy is God.

According to Pew they only have a College Graduation rate of 8%.

I don't think it could be Mennonites, Polygamous Mormons, Syrian Jews, or Shi'ite as none of those religions have ever been studied by Pew.

I guess it could be Jehovah's Witness because they were coded as a Religion by Pew and only have a 9% College Graduation Rate.

But the problem with that is that I've always associated Jehovah's Witnesses with relatively low birthrates, especially for religious people, and that doesn't fit this guy's story.

I mean, at least back when they were acting like that Mel Gibson movie about the Mayans was going to come true in the next few years, I’m pretty sure they had a low birthrate.

And that's the relevant time period that would've determined how many Siblings+Cousins this B.P. fellow would‘ve had.

As an aside, it's weird to think how many people never got to be born just because some guy forgot to carry the four when he was reading the book of Revelation!

(After some Doctrinal Changes made by the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 1990’s, the birth rate for denizens of that grouping rose to about the American Average.)

But the important thing here, as with anything, is the Jews: So I’ll conclude by noting that they have a College Graduation rate of 59% according to Pew.

Carolyn said...

His testimonial is not really supportive of the AP program. If he collected 63 AP credits he should have been able to shave a lot more than one semester from his college education. A BSEE is typically about 125-130 credits. He ended up in a very unglamorous branch of EE so I 'd guess he wasn't a superior student.

Kylie said...

In the comment section of the NYT article, B.P. says: "Against this[my ability to profit by qualifying on the AP tests I took], we have the contention that people like me will be overwhelmed and over our heads if offered opportunity."

No, I don't think anyone contends any such thing. People like B.P, ambitious, practical and driven, are the exception, not the rule. It's the people not like him that some contend cannot fully profit from the opportunities the AP tests offer.

He says his high school had a "roughly 50% dropout rate" and an "extensive AP program". How many of the roughly 50% who graduated took advantage of the opportunities available? And what is the cost/benefit ratio for a school with a 50% dropout rate to offer such an extensive program?

Anonymous said...

Is "Anonymous" an *intentional* parody of ignorant sterotyping? Shouldn't even a low-end isteve commenter know better?

BTW, if the rest of you can't explain how each and every one of his sentences was preposterously wrong, I'm disappointed in you.

Steve Sailer said...

Zarathustra found B.P.'s web page, too.

Thanks.

To expand upon what I was saying before, my policy is to not expose the real person behind somebody's Internet name. (E.g., I knew "Spengler's" real name for several years but didn't expose him, instead just mentioning that he had been a LaRouchie so readers could better assess where he was coming from.)

Yet, by mentioning that it's not hard to determine B.P.'s identity using Google theoretically imperils opens him up to malicious people. Yet, my sense is that leaving up a hurdle that requires some intelligence and determination to get over, such as having to find B.P.'s identity yourself, filters out most of the malicious.

My experience with spam emails is that the great majority of them are transparently bogus. Presumably, people with malicious intent tend to be careless boobs.

Bill said...

Zarathustra found B.P.'s web page, too.

Thanks.

To expand upon what I was saying before, my policy is to not expose the real person behind somebody's Internet name. (E.g., I knew "Spengler's" real name for several years but didn't expose him, instead just mentioning that he had been a LaRouchie so readers could better assess where he was coming from.)


Well, I wish I knew whether Zarathustra is the "Zarth" I know personally from some time back. Wouldn't surprise me. Can't be too many Zarathustras in this country, but then again there are probably at least a handful.

Yet, by mentioning that it's not hard to determine B.P.'s identity using Google theoretically imperils opens him up to malicious people. Yet, my sense is that leaving up a hurdle that requires some intelligence and determination to get over, such as having to find B.P.'s identity yourself, filters out most of the malicious.

Truth is that even most of the "malicious" are usually nothing to worry about. In fact, it's the people who know you intimately who can - and usually do - inflict the most damage. Only the truly insane obsess enough to stalk people they don't know, and if you aren't of the same stature as, say, Dan Rather (what's the frequency, Kenneth? Kapow!), you probably don't have much to worry about.

However, hurdles are always a good idea. If anything, it raises the bills of anyone who wants to go after you. Even most attorneys are lazy and ineffectual when it comes to data mining, so at $300/hour it's going to cost a hell of a lot of money for an enemy to dig up anything substantial if you throw up a few roadblocks.

Personally, I don't mind volunteering information that is in itself something of a roadblock.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the hero of a Heinlein juvenile novel from 1958.

What? Kip studied advanced material on his own, not through any state-supported program. And he was encouraged to do so by his Father. In what universe (or galaxy) would Kip have spent one second contemplating supporting his father in retirement?

Svigor said...

Only the truly insane obsess enough to stalk people they don't know, and if you aren't of the same stature as, say, Dan Rather (what's the frequency, Kenneth? Kapow!), you probably don't have much to worry about.

I watched about 10 seconds of Beck yesterday at a friend's house. He had a guy on (an author, I think) who had a version of Tourette's that compelled him to spit in the faces of famous people. WTF? I had no idea it got that specific!

Dennis said...

My kids took a number of AP courses in high school and, in fact, my son had completed all high school courses that he needed to graduate by the end of his junior year. Therefore, 80% of his senior year consisted of AP courses and the rest were electives. When he got to college, he had roughly the same experience you describe except the AP classes gave him nearly his full freshman year. He, too, used the extra time for employment.
What struck me about this experience is that the high schools have obviously not kept up. It seems that, logically, those AP courses should be part of the required curriculum to graduate from high school. Either the freshman year of college or the senior year of high school has become redundant for average to better students and they are being held back from real learning in high school (if I had to guess) as a pap to the self-esteem of the low producers. No wonder the drop-out rate is still so high.

I would guess the kid in the story is american indian

David said...

Carolyn,
Back when I got a Bachelors in EE, it was approximately a 140-145 semester hour program. Also, some of the hours you get from AP won't map directly onto your degree requirements. So given that he's also working during this time to pay his bills, 3-3.5 years is quite normal. Since then, there has been a serious drive to reduce all majors to close to 120 hours, but as late as the early 90's, EE generally ran longer.
Power engineering isn't overly endowed with glamour, but it is steady, well-paying work, and he probably isn't attached to a pager or working 60-70 hours a week either. My guess is he's making in excess of 100k per year, which is quite sufficient in most places in AZ to support the sort of lifestyle he probably wants.

Anonymous said...

I would imagine that many of Ben's AP course credits weren't applicable to the EE degree program which is why he only saved a semester or two off of his college career.

Most AP classes are in liberal arts sorts of classes with the exception of maybe some freshman level chemistry/physics/calculus.

I am guessing he was able to know out most of his general ed classes (but EE programs tend to have reduced GE requirements anyway) along with maybe two years of calculus. In fact if you look at the ASU EE degree map http://catalog.asu.edu/files/majormap09/ESEEEBSE.pdf you can see that most of his AP classes were probably useless for his degree.

In fact, for someone who prides themselves on doing just enough to maintain his scholarship, it's ironic that he would of spent so much time in taking all of the AP classes.

Kylie said...

Anonymous said: "Is "Anonymous" an *intentional* parody of ignorant sterotyping? Shouldn't even a low-end isteve commenter know better?

BTW, if the rest of you can't explain how each and every one of his sentences was preposterously wrong, I'm disappointed in you."

Presumably, you refer to the first comment in this entry. I can't speak to the first Anonymous's intentions or knowledge. I only count one sentence in his comment, though, so I'm not sure why you used the plural.

Not only did I not correct the first Anonymous, I didn't point out the mistakes made by commenters on the NYT article, such as S.C.'s howler: "As a former A.P. student, this debate is quite interesting..." or B.P.'s repeated misspelling of "achieve" as "acheive".

albertosaurus said...

Speaking of fringe religious minorities my favorite are "The Peculiar People". The historical novelist Bernhard Cornwell was placed as a child in this group - and they are indeed peculiar.

Cornwell churns out novels at a prodigious pace. His most famous series are the "Sharpe's" books but he has many others. All of them are deeply, profoundly, and amusingly anti-clerical. He makes Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins seem down right sympathetic to religion.

Paleo Truth Squad said...

"I'd argue maybe he shouldn't have went to college if he can't cut the apron strings to whatever this outfit is."

Anon, your comment is rubbish, but it speaks volumes about the lengths some idiots will go to, to appease the great American Bitch Goddess of success. As a thought experiment, Anon, consider having to dump all your friends and relations in order to attain a goal you covet. Unless you have a burning hatred of those folks, a heart of stone or a sociopathic level of ambition this would not be an attractive proposition.

Demanding his first born would be more kind. Sell out and move up, the path to earthly paradise. With logic like this, no wonder the country is going to the dogs.

Robert said...

Just because BP has a Scandinavian sounding name doesn't mean that there wasn't any intermarriage at some point. He could be only part Swedish, Norwegian, or whatever. Also, Jehovah's Witness is a good guess because all of the JW's I know spend a lot of time out spreading the message and doing work for the church. I think that they do that so they do not socialize with outsiders, another reason that his dad was uncomfortable with him going to college.

j-lil said...

I'm guessing BP's Pentecostal. There's a Pentecostal Church in his hometown, anyway...

Cinco Jotas said...

I think Robert has it exactly right.

Jehovah's Witnesses are famously hostile to higher education.

It wasn't until the early 1990s that the Watchtower Societies decided that going to college might be a good idea, but only so you could earn a living wage.

There's plenty of resentment about this among the smarter JWs...

Anonymous said...

I looked at your photostream Bill, I guess I know your surname too now. I do remember you using that pic of you at work some time ago.

Anonymous said...

BP is definitely a JW. All of the signs are there: isolation, closed community, secrecy (won't say his religion), and hostility towards education in general. AP tests will not help JWs as they make a point on not assimilating e.g. not standing for anthems. It's a horrible cult and probably worse than Scientology.

Thras said...

JW. The guy's experience sounds remarkably similar to my own.

J said...

JW. No doubt. The guy is a Jehova Witness, a group that is having a very serious internal debate about changing their traditional (extremely negative) attitude toward higher education. The debate started when it became evident that without education Witnesses could not maintain themselves in a modern economy. Lloyd Barry said that in Europe Witness were no accepted even in fast food restaurants if they could not produce a resume which showed supplemental education after high school. The Governing Body authorized in 1993 Witnesses to go to the University, and it is clear to me that what BP is trying to say that Witnesses should go to school. I read Watchtower since age 10 (I suscribed to all free magazines) and they are good people.

Anonymous said...

B'hai?

Anonymous said...

"B'hai?"

B'ahais support education for both men and women actually.

Anonymous said...

"B'hai?"

"B'ahais support education for both men and women actually."

they not only support education in the sense of going along with contemporary custom, they have required it since the religion began in the 1900s. They must be able to read and study for themselves before choosing to become baha'is. Nobody can be bahi simply because they are raised in it.