In the US nearly every school devotes two years of science classes to chemistry.
In South Burlington, Vermont, however, students take chemistry for only one year. This may not have a major effect on everyone taking chemistry because for those in lower-level classes it is unlikely that their overall knowledge of chemistry will ever be assessed on a national scale. But, the 13 of ustaking the advanced-placement chemistry class are at a disadvantage. We are required to learn, in one year, everything that other AP Chemistry students have spent two years mastering. One solution to this problem would be to extend the class by a year to properly include all of the material and align us with other schools across the country. This would help colleges because they wouldn’t have to compare a student who took one year of AP chemistry and scored a three on the AP exam to someone who studied it for two years and scored a four.
The biggest obstacle tomy proposal is recalibrating the school’s science system to incorporate the extra year of chemistry. Many setups could accommodate this change, but, I would implement one in particular: upon entering high school, students would take biology, following the national tendency. Next, they would complete a course called lab chemistry. Afterwards, students should be given options. They could take any of the other science courses for the next two years, which would include one class called AP Chemistry.
This is by no means the only solution and it might not be the best. However, I believe that the system calls for a change and this is one option. A change to our science system would ensure that students could learn everything they are expected to know by graduation, and they would be able to retain the information. Our current system is flawed and causes immense levels of stress. I have experienced lots of stress myself due to the current program. This year, regardless of how early I begin studying for a test, it seems impossible to be prepared because of the quantity of the subject matter and the limited time we are given to absorb it.
I start preparing for chemistry tests about a week in advance. The night before and the day of a test, I study for approximately ten hours, immersing myself enough to build up some confidence with the material. Lab reports are even worse. Our class usually doesn’t finish collecting all of our data until close to the due date. This means that 13 houses have their lights on at 3 am, the night before a lab is due. Thus far I am averaging about two-and-a-half hours of sleep on such nights.
Students are also forced to make a last-minute push the next day. This final push includes working in other classes, begging teachers to get out of class, and pretending to have lost track of time at lunch in order to gain more time to finish a lab report. Students have even taken sick days to get more time to prepare for AP Chemistry. Some science teachers in this school disagree with my perspective on this issue. There are many different opinions on whether the system needs change and, if it does, how to go about that change. There was one alternative solution that I found interesting.
My chemistry teacher expressed that he believes we are not given enough time to absorb the material. The solution he suggested was to eliminate our skinny. If this happened, we would be able to study chemistry for two full periods of the school year. Receiving a complete chemistry education is essential for anyone looking to enter a related field of study. Even if someone does not want to enter the chemistry field, they may be interested in something like engineering and any engineering major will undoubtedly be required to pass a chemistry class. It goes without saying, that proper education is vital to future success.
But, it’s difficult to provide a proper education when extremely difficult material is not given enough time to sink in. My proposal of a change to our schools’ science system is viable because the science class we are required to take our freshman year is not part of the curriculum most high schools teach, and it is based almost entirely on review of previous science classes. It is understandable that some would disagree with my stance on this issue. In fact, some may not even consider our schools science arrangement to be an issue at all. It’s hard to understand the difficulty of trying to learn such dense material, at an expedited rate, without having experienced the challenge. Some who oppose my idea would point out that this challenge is what we signed up for, and they would be right.
We knew that AP Chemistry would be almost incomprehensibly difficult. Students that have already taken the course make it clear to the incoming class that AP Chemistry will be the greatest educational challenge in their high school experience. However, most students take on this daunting challenge for one of two reasons. Firstly, they want to learn as much about chemistry as their school offers, or secondly, they want colleges to see that they challenge themselves. People should be able to learn chemistry at an AP level without exhausting themselves mentally and physically. It is possible that I have exaggerated the difficulty of AP Chemistry.
However, I believe that most students who have experienced the challenge of this class would agree with me, that I have not overstated its difficulty. Regardless, even those who accept the class’ difficulty level may still argue that switching to a two year program is not feasible. Those in opposition to the idea could say that, contrary to my belief, earth system science is in fact essential. Others may say that such a change reduces the freedom that our school allows in choosing from a vast array of science classes each year because they will be forced to focus on the same subject for multiple years. I understand why there may be opposition to my push to conform to national tendencies.
However, I stand by my point of view because of the following. We are over one quarter of the way into the school year and I have already learned a lot about chemistry. However, I don’t believe I have been able to work with the knowledge for long enough periods of time to fully retain all of the information. We are required to memorize too much, too often, making it very unlikely that long term retention will occur. Our brains are compiling endless information and eventually it all gets lumped together and becomes uninterpretable. I know that it is very difficult to change the structure of science classes.
But, I believe this is a necessary change and that the possibility of action must be looked into.