A recent NY Times column highlights an initiative from the College Board (the folks who create and produce the SATs and AP Exams) in which the Board determined that mastering two codes–computer science and the U.S. Constitution–were the most important skills (among the skills they test) for achieving success in college and in life. They explain their clunky-but-cleverly named “two codes” theory thusly: If you want to improve and shape U.S. society and its institutions, knowing the Constitution is key; if you want to improve and shape the world, knowing how computers work and being able to work with them is key. Their recent revamping of the AP History and AP Computer Science tests (and therefore the AP History and Computer Science curricula nationwide) reflects their focus on enabling more students to build these skills. And it seems to be working; the number of women and minorities taking the AP Computer Science exam, for example, has jumped remarkably since they have revamped the test.
Few would argue with the conclusion that knowledge of the US Constitution is incredibly important as a citizen of this nation, and that knowing how computers work (and how to code) is likely to increase your post college employment opportunities. But the two most important skills for success in college and life? First, it feels like a false choice, since students focusing on the SATs and AP exams are acquiring a lot more than two skills. Second, why stop at two? What about critical thinking? Financial Literacy? Reading Comprehension? Math? English? The list is long.
Frankly, while the College Board is to be commended for trying to make its exams more useful and relevant to students, it seems as if they decided to revamp these subjects and then created this “two codes” explanation as a kind of marketing tool. To be clear, it is great to see that more girls and people of color are focusing on computer science, and that students will need to have a more thorough understanding of Supreme Court decisions in order to do well on their AP Government test. But to suggest that these are the two most important skill sets for students to have for success in college and life has us scratching our heads.
While we are on the subject, GCP parents, what do you think are the most important subjects which best prepare students for success in college and life? Curious to hear!!