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To assert the unnaturalness of so natural a place will no doubt seem absurd or even perverse to many readers, so let me hasten to add that the nonhuman world we encounter in wilderness is far from being merely our own invention.
As Henry David Thoreau once famously declared, “In Wildness is the preservation of the World.” (1) But is it?
The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems.
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Freshmen who scored 4 or 5 on the AP exam in chemistry can enroll in a sophomore level Chemistry Department course, according to the undergraduate course catalogue.
But in the Physics Department, a score of 5 on the mechanics section of the AP Physics C exam is needed to place into sophomore-level Physics 16, according to the course catalogue.Sadler, the primary researcher of the study, said the recent survey polled college students in biology, physics, and chemistry courses to test the correlation between AP scores and first-semester college grades.The study, which found no significant correlation between AP scores and grades, adds to the ongoing debate among educators over the weight placed on AP exam scores.The study—which included 500 students who had taken AP exams—found that their grades were not significantly different from those of students who had not taken the advanced courses previously, Sadler said.Students who bypass the introductory level courses with AP scores eventually perform worse in higher level courses, Sadler said, citing additional findings of the study.As we gaze into the mirror it holds up for us, we too easily imagine that what we behold is Nature when in fact we see the reflection of our own unexamined longings and desires.For this reason, we mistake ourselves when we suppose that wilderness can be the solution to our culture’s problematic relationships with the nonhuman world, for wilderness is itself no small part of the problem.Packer also said that Harvard—which issued a press release trumpeting Sadler’s findings—unnecessarily created a controversy based on an unpublished report.“It’s a deliberate attempt to mislead people to think that the claims are accurate.” Packer said.He said that the Harvard officials who issued the press release “should be ashamed.”In response to Packer’s claims, Sadler and Tai said that sample size is not the only important factor in assessing a study’s validity, and that College Board’s own studies are flawed because their sample is not randomly selected.“A highly controlled study with a random sample is much more illuminating than a study with a larger sample size and selected samples,” Sadler said.Far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation—indeed, the creation of very particular human cultures at very particular moments in human history.It is not a pristine sanctuary where the last remnant of an untouched, endangered, but still transcendent nature can for at least a little while longer be encountered without the contaminating taint of civilization.