Texas high school student Alyssa Brown was not expecting to see a question about Taylor Swift on her Advanced Placement US government and politics exam.
“I opened the free response questions, and the first question was about Taylor Swift, and I was just laughing,” the 18-year-old told CNN.
“I thought it was pretty cool.”
Brown, a senior at Summit High School in Mansfield, Texas, is not alone.
High school students across the country this week were pleasantly surprised by the pop star’s cameo on their year-end exam.The question — which noted that Swift inspired voter registration ahead of the 2018 midterm elections by posting about her politics on Instagram with a link to voter registration website Vote.org — appeared on the May 3 version of the 2021 AP US Government and Politics exam. Since 2018, Swift has spoken up about politics a number of times and lent her music to an ad targeted at young voters in final stretch of the 2020 campaign.
Question relates to key themes of AP course
According to Jerome White, a spokesperson for the College Board, Swift’s 2018 voter registration Instagram post connects to key themes of the course. The College Board administers the AP program, which allows high school students to take college-level courses with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both. The AP US government and politics course “provides a college-level, nonpartisan introduction to key political concepts, ideas, institutions, policies, interactions, roles, and behaviors that characterize the constitutional system and political culture of the United States,” according to the College Board.
White said that the question about Swift asked students to analyze how voter registration laws and procedures can affect civic participation, such as voter turnout.
“We’re delighted to hear that AP students could relate what they’ve learned in their AP course to what they experience in their daily lives — and in this case, what they’ve read on their Instagram feeds,” White told CNN, adding that the question will not appear on the May 20 or June 3 versions of the exam.
Students told CNN that the unexpected question was comforting during an otherwise stressful period.
Miri Feigin, a 17-year-old junior at Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, was wearing a Taylor Swift 1989 Tour sweatshirt while taking the exam.
“I am a huge Taylor Swift fan. I’ve been a fan for my whole life,” Feigin said.
“That question sort of boosted my confidence and helped me write a stronger free response,” Feigin told CNN.
“Exams usually make you feel like, ‘Oh, you won’t know these people. … It’s usually about important figures who are older. Seeing a younger artist it made me feel comfortable in a way,” said Romeo Rodriguez, an 18-year-old senior at Avant Garde Academy in Hollywood, Florida.
“I 100% appreciate that (the College Board) put the question on the test,” Rodriguez added.
While not yet eligible to vote, Feigin said the question made the test more relatable.
“I remember being ecstatic when (Swift) made the post,” Feigin said. “The question definitely made me realize how so many young people participate in politics for different reasons, and I’m happy that Taylor could help more young people get involved.”And Brown, who registered to vote in 2020 after seeing a similar post on Instagram from YouTube star David Dobrik on Instagram, said she saw herself reflected in the test question.
“When I saw the question, I immediately thought about the David Dobrik situation,” she told CNN.
According to all three students, seeing the question on their exam helped them think further about the way young people and celebrities can participate in politics.
“Especially celebrities with really big platforms, if they tell people to go vote, there’s a chance they will actually go vote,” Brown said.
“The question made me think about how celebrities can impact your decisions, more so than I already had.”
By Rachel Janfaza, CNN