Do not endanger inspiring AP Physics C class

Editor’s Note: The following letter was written to members of the College Board and submitted to this newspaper for publication.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Dustin Inada, and I am an inspired and passionate freshman physics major enrolled in University of California Santa Barbara’s College of Creative Studies. Last year I graduated from Torrey Pines High School, where I had the privilege of taking AP Physics B in my junior year and AP Physics C in my senior year. Last spring, after being accepted into UCSB, I received a phone call from one of the professors inviting me into the College of Creative Studies (CCS), a more select, more prestigious program than the honors program in UCSB’s College of Letters and Sciences. The professor had looked at the applicants with an intended physics major and personally called the ones she wished to invite to apply to the CCS program. I believe that my enrollment in AP Physics C, set my application apart from the hundreds of others. Not only did AP Physics C show me the beauty of physics and inspire me to major in it, but it also set my application apart from others and gave me an amazing opportunity I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I am writing this letter to urge the College Board not to split AP Physics B into two courses so that students can continue taking AP Physics C in high school without having to overcome additional obstacles. By splitting AP Physics B into two courses, it will essentially make AP Physics C, an already intimidating class, unreachable by most students.

If AP Physics B is split into two courses, students will have to decide before their sophomore year — and before they have studied any high school physics — that AP Physics C is a course they want to take in their senior year. This would be extremely difficult for almost any student. The majority of freshmen do not have their whole high school career planned out and taking two challenging science courses in one year would be almost impossible, especially with the other challenging courses that students take. Schools will only offer AP Physics C if there are enough students who plan to take the course. Thus, not only does splitting AP Physics B make it harder for students to take AP Physics C, but also schools are likely to eliminate the course altogether.

According to David Baltimore, the president of the California Institute of Technology, “Science is the driver behind our economy. It always has been, and that’s true now more than ever.” The United States is lagging behind the rest of the world in math and science in pretty substantial ways, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, so why would an organization fighting to “help people achieve higher levels of education” strip America of a remarkable science class that has given me as well and many other students the highest level of physics currently offered in high school?

AP Physics C ties together calculus with real life concepts, something that sets this course apart from any other high school course. After seeing how the derivative of a velocity function would produce the acceleration function and the integral of it would produce the position function, I was hooked. Learning about maximums and minimums in calculus was somewhat interesting, but after seeing the maximum height of the trajectory of a projectile is simply when the derivative of the position function is equal to zero, I had a much firmer understanding of the calculus concept. This trend of seeing how math concepts I previously learned could be applied to physics problems made my intended major an easy decision. It also made me eager to learn new areas of math that were briefly introduced in AP Physics C. For example, how differential equations can be applied to falling objects, circuits, rockets, springs, and other physics concepts made me even more eager to learn and master differential equations, a daunting subject which I am now looking forward to. Splitting an already well-paced class into a two full year algebra based physics courses and essentially removing the more inspiring class out of high schools will eliminate the opportunity for future students to take the class that changed my life.

I am sure other Torrey Pines alumni majoring in physics would also be writing about the poignant, positive impact this class made on them if they knew the AP Physics C course was in jeopardy. It was only by accident that I learned about this while visiting my high school physics teachers to tell them how much I appreciated their classes. The main reason I’m writing this letter is because earlier today I was talking to my younger brother, Noah, about the classes he is interested in taking at Torrey Pines. Noah is an equally if not more motivated, self-driven, and passionate student. When I was telling him about the classes he might be interested in taking and realizing he might not get the opportunity to take this life-changing course, I was deeply saddened that anyone would take this amazing opportunity away from someone with so much potential.

All that said, it is devastating that the College Board, an organization claiming to fight for education, is planning to endanger or eliminate the class that not only inspired me to become a scientist, but also opened opportunities for me I didn’t even know about. With the growing need for science in any economy and with America’s educational gap in science compared with leading countries, it seems crucial to protect every opportunity given in this field, particularly one so interesting and inspiring as AP Physics C.

Thank you,

Dustin Inada