AP shirts put too much pressure on students

By Danielle Kiefer, Circulation Manager and Online Observations Editor

I recently entered school and noticed many students in my grade wearing the same green t-shirts, flocking together and studying notes and textbooks. Confused, I wondered why a matching-shirt cult had suddenly taken up residence in the halls, until I was informed that they were the AP NSL students who were strongly encouraged to wear their class t-shirts on test days.

Several Advanced Placement classes, including AP NSL, AP Biology and AP BC Calculus, design t-shirts every year for students to wear on major assessment days. AP classes should not be allowed to have their own shirts because they create pressure to take AP classes and demean others who are not enrolled in AP classes.

Students often feel obligated by parents, peers and CHS to take as many advanced classes as possible, and class shirts increase this pressure.

Freshmen could see a large number of students in higher grades wearing the shirts and might feel that they should take that class the following year because so many others are. This pressure can cause many students to take AP classes only because it is what their peers are doing.

According to the College Board website, the number of students taking an AP class rose by almost fifty percent from 2004 to 2009.

This growth in AP courses’ popularity is most likely not just attributed to students’ increasing intellectual levels. Many students are taking AP classes to improve their college applications, and other students are take the classes because everyone else is, causing the increase in AP class enrollment.

One of the purposes of AP t-shirts is to promote a specific class and make it seem more accessible to students, but the shirts make the class seem unrealistically light-hearted. Shirts create the illusion of belonging to a club or a sports team, displaying the class as a fun and enjoyable way to be a part of something instead of the challenging and vigorous academic course that it is.

According to an April 2009 New York Times article, over 50 percent of surveyed teachers felt that too many students taking AP classes are in over their heads as a result of overestimating their ability to handle such a class.

Many students are not quite ready for such a hard class, and this false advertising encourages students to take the class when they may not be ready for something so difficult.

AP class shirts send a message that AP classes are superior to honors and on-level classes. The t-shirts are a form of bragging because they are showing off that the students are taking an advanced class. A t-shirt is an inappropriate place for class level to be  displayed.

Some may say that AP t-shirts are helpful because they create class unity. However, to the students who are not in the class, the shirts have the opposite effect: constructing a barrier between those students and the rest of their peers.

Unless CHS wants to start making shirts for every class, AP classes should not make t-shirts.