When I applied to Andover, it seemed like a perfect fit. I enjoy and want to pursue the humanities in my future education, and when I was considering attending prep school, a world-renowned liberal arts boarding school seemed like the perfect fit.
Last year, during my Junior Fall, I took six entry-level courses. That first term, we Juniors were given more leeway as we adjusted to life at Andover. To lighten the pressure, both English and history were pass-fail courses. For some people, having two fewer classes to worry about felt like a lifesaver–these are the people for whom the adjustment is intended for. But there are others who, like myself, not only enjoy these subjects but also excel in them.
Some may say that English and history are more subjective and less concrete and are therefore harder to transition to, justifying Andover’s pass-fail decision. But while it is true that English curricula can have a widely varied subject matter, I assure you from experience (I’ve been taught algebra by a total of seven different teachers both here and at home) that just because math and science may have rules set in stone, it does not mean that teaching styles between instructors and schools correlate in any way. In my experience, adjusting to a new math class poses a challenge as well. Every time I transition from one math teacher to the next, I experienced an entirely new learning environment. Everything is different- how the teacher expects problems to be done, what we do in class, how homework is graded-everything. My grades jumped from low to high and back again every time I switched.
Therefore, making English and History pass-fail isn’t necessarily more effective at helping new students transition to the rigor of Andover coursework than making math pass-fail.
In addition to making English and history pass-fail Junior fall, Andover strips humanities classes of extra time through the use of red-dot schedules. As a Lower beginning to take higher-level courses, I am experiencing the interesting phenomenon of the red dot – one day of the week where a class does not meet. This creates a significant difference in terms of class time and in homework. However, almost all of the red dot classes fall under the category of humanities. 200-level English, history and rel-phil classes have red dot days, while yearlong sciences, math classes and the majority of language classes do not. Do the humanities not deserve the same amount of time as biology and geometry?
I feel it is unfair that some subjects are given this extra time when others are not. It gives the appearance that some classes are valued more than others, regardless of students’ interests and ability.
While I am not against the removal of red dots (I can’t deny I enjoy having free periods on Tuesdays), I think that a more even spread of time commitments through every subject is possible.
The prevalence of red dot days and the existence of pass-fail classes only in the humanities allows me to say not unfairly that a negative bias exists against the humanities in terms of class time and apparent value.
All subjects are important and they should all be given an equal amount of time. Having my preferred courses given less time makes me feel like my talents are unappreciated when I want nothing more but to thrive at the place I call home.
Alex Anderlik is a two-year Lower from Missoula, MT.