Originally created 03/16/04

School guidelines keep brightest from shining

Georgia's educational policies have long reflected an attitude that discourages students from assuming heavier course loads, taking more challenging classes and generally excelling to the extent of their abilities.

The system is centered on the premise of being fair and not putting average students in a disadvantaged position, so much so that it is willing to ignore the needs of the most intelligent pupils.

Consider advance placement courses, which give students the option of taking an end-of-the-course test that many universities accept as credit-hours for college courses.

In the past, hardworking students enrolled in multiple advanced placement courses could take all of their end-of-course tests free of charge. A change in state policy now allows for only one free test per student per year. This means that some advanced placement students are now saddled with a not altogether inconsiderable fee of $82 for each additional test.

Academic excellence is also penalized in summer school. A longstanding policy of Columbia County allows for students who fail courses during the regular school year to pay less to enroll in summer school than students who choose to enroll in summer courses to move ahead on their educational track. In short, washouts who don't make the effort to focus themselves and pass classes the first time around are the ones who get special privileges, while industrious students who apply themselves are left with the check.

While AP students are given the honors distinction that makes them more attractive to the college of their choice, they are discouraged from taking more classes in high school, which ensures they'll have to spend a longer period enrolled in college.

When annual tuition prices can climb into the five-digit ranges, that extra year they could have saved by taking multiple advanced placement courses in high school is really going to cost them.

This ridiculous system of discouraging distinction and forcing students down into an "appropriate" middle point of intelligence may be convenient for administrators and educators, but it leaves the brightest students ill-prepared. After all, children are the future, right? Why would we want to teach them that merit should be rewarded and that trying harder shouldn't cost you more?

Zach Strother is a junior at Lakeside High School.

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