AP Human Geography No Longer Offered at Stuyvesant

AP Human Geography is no longer being offered at Stuyvesant.

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To minimize the stress on this year’s incoming freshmen, Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography will no longer be offered at Stuyvesant.

Taught by social studies teacher Josina Dunkel, AP Human Geography was one of the few AP classes offered to freshmen. However, due to the pandemic, the course will no longer be available. “We’re living through a really complex time,” Dunkel said. “The last full year [the incoming freshmen] had of school that wasn’t interrupted was sixth grade, so we just felt like asking them to show up on the first day [to] a college-level class was kind of a lot, so the decision was really a mental health and a sensitivity decision.” Dunkel will now be teaching Global History.

AP Human Geography examined patterns of the human population through geography and covered a range of topics from religious identities and beliefs to socio-economic structures in developing countries. “It really is such a dynamic class with current events and real-world examples, and I think that that made it kind of popular,” Dunkel said.

The discussion of whether to continue to offer the course started in the late 2020-2021 school year when discussing the course’s difficulties. “The guidance counselors had meetings with assistant principals, and they were able to really convey some of the difficulties from the mental health standpoint,” Dunkel said. “I know that both [the biology and social studies assistant principals] did consider whether or not to have an AP for freshmen next year, and [Assistant Principal of Social Studies Jennifer] Suri was just very convinced that we needed to scale it back, and [that] maybe this is a decision for a few years.”

Common issues students encountered with AP Human Geography may have stemmed from underestimating the workload and difficulty of the course. “We’ve always had trouble with finding the right students to go into an accelerated social studies class in the first year,” Dunkel said. “We used to have an honors global studies class that I also taught, and it’s always just been tricky getting the students that understand that it’s going to be a lot of work and it’s going to be worth it if you like that kind of stuff, but if not, it’ll just be a lot of work.”

Sophomore and former Freshman Caucus president Unique Zhang found that according to many former freshmen, the class was at times draining. “Many said that the class was enjoyable, but that the homework load was way too much and led them to have sleepless nights at times,” Zhang said. “Allowing the freshmen to have time to transition into the school year would be beneficial, and having [AP Human Geography] no longer being an option for [them] seems like a good choice.”

Others who have taken AP Human Geography had a positive experience with the class. “I enjoyed every minute of that class and weaved the lessons I've learned into my conversations today. I would love to relive it if I had the chance,” junior Sarah Peter said in an e-mail interview.

Given the limited selection of APs for freshmen already, some believe that removing AP Human Geography now limits the range of AP courses to choose from. “They should have kept it as an option. Now, there are no more non-science-based APs for freshmen,” sophomore Carol Hon said. “Plus, kids coming from private schools may not have the regents credits to be able to take the science APs. If that is the case, they have no choice but to take no APs freshman year.”

Others felt that AP Human Geography helped prepare students for future AP courses. “Offering AP Human Geography freshman year is very beneficial because it gives freshmen a taste of what taking an AP course is like. In my opinion, [AP Human Geography] isn’t as difficult as some other APs, but at the same time, it is an AP course, so it is still challenging,” senior Florence Lei said.

As AP Human Geography is not a prerequisite to other social studies classes, it may be offered to a different grade in the future. “[In] the first year it was offered, it was actually a sophomore or a junior or senior [class], and then it became a freshman class,” Dunkel said. “We’ve really moved it around because it doesn't exactly fit, so we’re thinking of maybe offering it as a junior elective or maybe just returning it to the freshman year [in the future].”

While the class may be challenging, many students ultimately found learning the content to be worthwhile. “There were times when the coursework took up a massive amount of my time and energy, but I endured through that knowing that I was deeply passionate in what I was studying,” Peter said.