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The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

AP Comparative Government returns

New AP history course brings global perspectives home

This year, AP Comparative Government returned to McLean after a four year hiatus. The class offers a wider outlook on global political systems and affairs than AP United States Government, comparing and contrasting seven governments in the span of its curriculum.
The class was brought back to McLean largely due to the advocacy of members of the Model UN club.
“Just last year, a bunch of Model UN kids said they wanted to [enroll in AP Comp Gov],” AP Comp Gov teacher Ian Howell said. “I said, if you want [the class] to survive, [there has to be] at least 25 kids. They went to all their friends [to sign up], and all of a sudden we had three sections.”
Because AP Comp Gov students examine and analyze the structures of multiple governments, the class consists of a more inquisitive curriculum compared to AP U.S. Gov.
“[Our class] is AP [U.S.] Gov and AP Comp Gov in the same class intertwined throughout the entire year,” senior Seb Cohen said. “You’re learning them in parallel, not one after the other, so you’re reading two textbooks at the same time.”
AP Comp Gov covers two semesters of both the college equivalents of Comp Gov and U.S. Gov, while AP U.S. Gov stretches only one semester of its college equivalent across the duration of a school year. Despite the fact that Comp Gov contains more information, many students felt drawn to its complex content.
“[Someone may] want to study as many governments as possible so they have as much knowledge as possible [on government],” Cohen said. “I wanted to learn more about the U.S. as a whole in the context of foreign governments to see what [our government is] doing poorly and what we can do better.”
Howell’s class prioritizes a discussion based environment, attracting students that thrive in seminar-style learning.
“Mr. Howell makes us feel like we can talk and be heard,” senior Sofia Scartascini said. “In the classroom, anyone can jump in and ask questions like, ‘What do we think about this?’ and ‘What implications might this have?’”
AP Comp Gov prompts students to have a more contemplative mindset, taking multiple perspectives into consideration when discussing the foundations of various countries.
“[AP Comp Gov] encourages more thought and outside-of-the-box thinking,” Cohen said. “It’s all about understanding and being able to talk about the subject instead of just being able to answer a question about it.”
Every unit, the class learns about an aspect of the U.S. government, then goes through the similarities and differences present in the governments of the other six countries. There are also scenarios in which the class compares two foreign governments.
“You’re going to be looking at the same issue from seven different points of view, as opposed to just one,” Howell said. “You’ve got seven [countries] on a macro scale, and you’ve got the parties within the seven, so it demands more thought.”
Because of the four-year absence of the class at McLean, Howell had to make adjustments to the current event-based course to get it prepared for this school year.
“I can’t just recycle [content from] the previous year,” Howell said “Over the last three, four years, if I wasn’t too worried about reading articles in China and Nigeria, now I am.”
AP Comp Gov provides a holistic overview for students interested in foreign affairs and public policy. Many opt to take this class over regular AP U.S. Gov because of future aspirations to comprehensively study the subject.
“I am interested in pursuing Poli Sci at a rigorous school,” Scartascini said. “I know that [taking Comp Gov] will help better prepare me for my future goals.”

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