Ever wonder where all those invitations to participate in anonymous Survey Monkey surveys come from? Those would be courtesy of AP Research—the elusive beast of Jenks High School. AP Research is taught by Mr. Horn in Building 6; it’s the second year course of the AP Capstone program, and it’s offered both in school and out of school hours. In August, students propose a question that they want answered, and, once it’s been approved, they spend the remainder of the year gathering research in order to answer that question in the form of a 5,000 word paper. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this class, but it’s seldom seen in action. Below are interviews with a few 2017-2018 Research students to give you a better idea of what it means to participate in this course.
What was your topic?
I attempted to determine if there was a connection between the novels 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World and our society. Specifically, I wanted to see if I could find a measurable impact of those novels within American government.
What did you find?
Through my research, I wasn’t actually able to identify any specific correlation, but that’s kind of the nature of doing research.
How did you choose your topic?
I went through a lot of different topics before I finally landed on my literary review. What ultimately pushed me towards this was when I was thinking about all the books I’d read through high school I noticed that those three specifically were kind of odd balls, because a lot of the books we read are all about “America’s not the best thing in the world” or “the world’s not a very good place,” but those three specifically were ones that are all offered repeatedly and have that kind of emphasis on this dystopian version of the world.
What would you tell people about the program?
The Capstone program is all about building the ability to argue and to speak in a concise manner. When I entered the program as a junior I had gotten off my sophomore year where I was a very introverted person who didn’t really consider himself a speaker in front of anyone, much less a crowd of people about something that I’d been working on for months. But by the end of my junior year I’d learned how to not only speak in front of groups but how to present properly, to actually keep an audience engaged, and also to argue effectively for a solution to a problem. All of those are skills which are going to be useful to me for my whole entire life.
How has the research you conducted affected you?
Despite my inability to find a correlation in this instance, I think it’s important to strive to find ways to measure things that we don’t believe can be measured. […] I think there’s this generally agreed upon perception by people that books matter—I wanted to prove that because I’m an avid reader and I think everyone should aspire to be one, and I think research should continue to be done to find ways in which books can measurably influence people.
Do you think there’s quantifiable proof out there?
Absolutely. During my research presentation one of the questions I received was if I could name any book that I read over the course of my high school career that had a positive outlook toward society. That was posed by Ms. Lau, and I was shocked to say that I couldn’t. The […] novels that came to my mind included Fast Food Nation, Freakonomics, Omnivore’s Dilemma, all these different books […] that had these very negative to sometimes neutral outlooks upon society. She asked, if I could do my research again, would I take that sort of direction? And I think I would, to see if it was actually having a mental impact on the people attending high school, specifically Jenks.
From your research, which way do you think the correlation works? (Society to book or book to society?)
I think of it as sort of a feedback loop. As with a lot of things, the relationship usually tends to go both ways. In the instance of the books that I researched for the course of this study, I think it would have been a society producing people who are commenting back on that society, whereas in some instances people write about society and that could potentially have the impact upon society as these independent clauses, but I think it’s more appropriate to suggest that it’s actually a cumulative concept.
You’re a pretty STEM guy- has your work on this project affected your interests in any ways?
It hasn’t affected what I’m going to pursue in my life directly. I’m still going to go on to be an engineer, I’m still going study mathematics in college. But it’s given me an appreciation for the arts that the last time I really had an exposure to was when I was in orchestra and I gained an appreciation for music. I think that’s the closest thing I could really compare it to, because the amount of sheer effort I put into these books. I started reading in a new way, and I’m glad I had that chance.
What would you want to share with people out of your experience?
The AP Capstone program is an opportunity to not just find out what you’re into and what you want to pursue in life, but it’s a way to find who you are as a person and to find your own voice, and I think that’s the one thing everyone should try to gain if they were to stay in those classes.
By: Olivia Hurd