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AP World History teachers launch website to push back against the disruptive, Eurocentric, and pedagogically unsound revision to the course

A group of dedicated AP World History teachers has just launched a website (www.saveapworld.org) to express their ______ at the College Board for its sudden and drastic decision to dramatically alter the scope of the course and to articulate a clear list of demands intended to preserve the integrity, vision, and purpose of the AP World History curriculum.

The College Board sent a shockwave through the AP World History of community of teachers in late May by announcing a dramatic reduction in the scope of the course curriculum.  According to the College Board’s plans, the 2018-2019 exam will be the last exam that truly assesses students’ understanding of world history from the emergence of humans as a species some 200,000 years ago all the way up to the 21st century.  Instead, the new exam will only assess what students know about World History since 1450 CE, essentially gutting the current course to the point that it will no longer merit the title it will nonetheless retain:  “World History.”  In practical terms, the College Board will be offering a modern Western Civilizations course, a view of history that professional historians and other social scientists have worked hard to discard over the last few decades.  

The group behind saveapworld.org has issued the following demands of the College Board:

The launch of this website comes just days after all the former leaders of the AP World History course and exam team have already sent a letter opposing this revision to the College Board. They wrote:  

"[T]he College Board's decision to start the course and exam in 1450, which focuses attention on initial European colonization, will steer teachers into a Eurocentric narrative.  It turns an ambitious and field-leading project into a revival of another generation's Western Civ course, a waste of of two decades of dedicated work by teachers and faculty across the US." (June 11, 2018)

Furthermore, the American Historical Association has expressed its opposition to the College Board, writing:

"[T]he AHA believes that this particular revision is likely to reduce the teaching of precolonial histories at the high school level. It risks creating a Western-centric perspective at a time when history as a discipline and world history as a field have sought to restore as many voices as possible to the historical record and the classroom." (June 12, 2018)

Several prominent world historians have also individually come out against the College Board’s decision.

Pat Manning, Andrew Mellon Professor of World History, Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh, Past President of the AHA

“The timing of the currently proposed cutback, at a moment when the national walls are rising on every continent, is unfortunate. It would be better if the College Board could find a way to reaffirm the strength and breadth of the APWH course for the next generation.”

David Christian, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, Co-Founder of the Big History Project

“As someone who has worked with many other world historians to argue for the importance of a wider approach to human history, including one that can help us begin to grasp the overall trajectory of human history, I am appalled by the College Board's decision to narrow the scope of world history.  This is a seriously retrograde step....I feel part of a whole generation of historians, teaching at colleges and schools, who fought for a genuinely worldish approach to the past, and feel it is really tragic to see a generation's work go to waste like this.”

Most importantly, AP World History teachers themselves are speaking out as well:

Karol Giblin, AP World History Teacher (location? school?)

“To begin this course at 1450, is to begin teaching the majority of the population’s history in reflection of the West.  To begin at a time when you have little choice but to address peoples in deference, subjugation, rebellion, or revolution to or from the West.”

Michael Macijeski, AP World History Teacher (location? school?)

“If the proposed course changes go forward and the course begins in 1450, I’m not sure I can recommend we keep it; our school might be better served by a course that continues to offer the full sweep of world history, even if we must create it ourselves...”

For more information, including full letters, links to press coverage, and ______ please visit saveapworld.org.

The Advanced Placement World History course was created in 2002 to survey all of human history, from our earliest migrations across Africa to the present day. In May, the College Board announced that it will be removing half of the content from the course, keeping only material from after 1450 CE, citing teacher dissatisfaction with the amount of content covered and difficulties among students to perform well on the exam.  Despite these complaints and difficulties, World History is one of the most popular and fastest growing AP courses, with nearly 300,000 students completing the exam in 2017.

The College Board relies on a combination of college professors and high school teachers to design their courses, plan and facilitate their trainings, and write and grade their exams.  In addition to the depth and complexity of the class, the College Board has redesigned the course four times over the past 10 years.  These changes, which create countless hours of unpaid labor for thousands of teachers, were largely accepted by the teacher community.  After a promise from Senior VP for AP and Instruction, Trevor Packer, in 2017 that there would be no new changes for the foreseeable future, teachers finally felt stable. With these recent changes, which were rushed out with minimal consultation and engagement with the community, teachers not only must recreate their own lesson plans, but also must move forward with the College Board with less trust.

The College Board has failed to reflect on how the revision will alter the focus and skew of the discipline of history among the next generation of scholars if students are not introduced to topics in ancient, classical, post-classical, and non-Western histories. The American academy remains the most influential in the world. World History is, by necessity, an interdisciplinary field, borrowing from Anthropology, Archaeology, Linguistics, Genetics, Economics, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, and Gender Studies. Changes to our high school exam could also erode interest in these adjacent fields.  As of the publication of this press release, the World History Association, the American History Association and the original AP World History test development committee have already published letters opposing these changes.

The College Board’s response to teacher complaints about the amount of course content is to support a two-year sequence in world history.  It has designed an additional “pre-AP” World History and Geography course, which would offer content before 1450, but the steep price tag associated with the course ($600-$6500, depending on the number of students in the course and the size of the school itself) is prohibitive for many, if not most, school districts.  Additionally, the costs of new teachers and other materials are not feasible for many districts.  On top of this, many districts are cutting social studies courses and replacing them with STEM courses, in other words, a second world history course, no matter how important it might be, just does not fit within many high schools.  It effectively disadvantages all of those students nationwide whose districts are unable to afford the course or fit it into their schedules. Finally, this new course also poses a very direct and very real threat to the existing AP Human Geography class which is traditionally taught in the Freshman year.

If you would like more information about the changes to APWH, visit saveapworld.org or email saveapworld@gmail.com.

AP World History teachers push back against the disruptive, Eurocentric, and pedagogically unsound  revision to the course

After a implementing a series relatively minor changes to the AP World History (APWH) exam in 20__, 20__, and 20__, the College Board sent a shockwave through the AP World History of community of teachers in late May by announcing a dramatic reduction in the scope of the course curriculum.  According to the College Board’s plans, the 2018-2019 exam will be the last exam that truly assesses students’ understanding of world history from the emergence of humans as a species some 200,000 years ago all the way up to the 21st century.  Instead, the new exam will only assess what students know about World History since 1450 CE, essentially gutting the current course to the point that it will no longer merit the title it will nonetheless retain:  “World History.”  In practical terms, the College Board will be offering a modern Western Civilizations course, a view of history that professional historians and other social scientists have worked hard to discard over the last few decades.  

From its beginnings in only 2002, students enrolled in an AP World History course have had the chance to gain, probably for the first time in their lives, a truly global perspective on all of human history.  The current curriculum, which has essentially been in place in its current structure since 2004, opens with what the College Board calls Period 1, an overview of the emergence of humans as as a species, the migration of humans around the world, the development of agriculture, and the emergence of the earliest civilizations.  Then, beginning around 600 BCE, the remaining 95% of the course exposes students to a dynamic, inclusive, and interwoven story of human history over the most recent 2,500 years (Periods 2 to 6).  

What concerns both high school APWH teachers and the academic community is that in a world that is increasingly interconnected and multicultural, this change moves the study of history at the high school level in precisely the wrong direction.  All 21st century students - including, especially, students of color - need a deeper and more enduring understanding of history that does not treat the non-Western world as simply the supporting cast to the leading role of the West.  The College Board’s move eliminates some of the most dynamic, innovative, and consequential civilizations from the curriculum, including: Han, Song, and Ming China; Mauryan and Gupta India; Achaemenid Persia; the Mongol Empire; Ghana and Mali in West Africa; and Cahokia, the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas in the Americas.  Even key developments in Western history have been left out, including: Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia; Greece, Rome, and Alexander the Great; 75% of the history of Christianity; the Holy Roman Empire; the Byzantine Empire; the Vikings; the Crusades; and the early Renaissance.

In light of these devastating omissions, all of the former leaders of the AP World History Exam team have already sent a letter opposing this revision to the College Board. They write:  

"[T]he College Board's decision to start the course and exam in 1450, which focuses attention on initial European colonization, will steer teachers into a Eurocentric narrative.  It turns an ambitious and field-leading project into a revival of another generation's Western Civ course, a waste of of two decades of dedicated work by teachers and faculty across the US." (June 11, 2018)

Furthermore, the American Historical Association has expressed its opposition to the College Board, writing:

"[T]he AHA believes that this particular revision is likely to reduce the teaching of precolonial histories at the high school level. It risks creating a Western-centric perspective at a time when history as a discipline and world history as a field have sought to restore as many voices as possible to the historical record and the classroom." (June 12, 2018)

Furthermore, the revisions to the APWH curriculum are not problematic just for the reasons already mentioned.  In today’s public education environment - with its emphasis on standardized testing in the context of often stagnant or declining budgets - schools and teachers don’t have the resources to adjust to this latest curriculum overhaul.  This is especially true for history and the social sciences, subjects that have become particularly under-resourced at the expense of those that are assessed on standardized tests (reading, writing, and math) or those that fall under the STEM umbrella (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math).

Another factor contributing to the frustration of APWH teacher is that this is just the most significant of a series of changes that the College Board has made to the APWH curriculum in recent years. In 20___, the College Board moved the end of Period 2 (and, therefore, the beginning of Period 3) from 500 CE to 600 CE and moved the end of Period 5 (the beginning of Period 6) from 1914 to 1900.  Then, just last year, the College Board completed its overhaul of the entire AP History program by launching a redesigned exam format now used by all three AP History courses. Previously, each of the three AP History exams had a different format and structure.  Not done there, this year’s exam was further adjusted by dropping one of the previously tested skills (synthesis, dropping 1 of the 4 Short Answer Questions, and giving students more choice throughout the writing portion of the exam.

The College Board maintains that its latest revision is a response to complaints that the current version of the exam requires too much content knowledge.  However, this complaint is lobbied at all AP Exams, not just APWH.  It hardly seems possible that the College Board would consider addressing this issue on the AP United States History Exam by dropping all American history content before the Civil War.  Furthermore, many of the already adopted revisions address concerns about too much content. Because of the choice implemented in the writing sections of this year’s exam, a student could get perfect scores on each writing question without having to know any content from Periods 1 and 2.

., stransform this all-encompassing vision of human history into what amounts to a 21st century version of a modern Western Civilization course by only assessing what students know about world history after 1450 - a date that neatly coincides with the emergence of the West as the dominating force in world history.


The American Historical Association has also come out in opposition to the proposed change.  AHA President Mary Beth Norton and AHA Executive Director James Grossman wrote to Trevor Parker:

"The proposed changes to this course are bad for everyone, not least the College Board itself...[I]n recent years, the program has made strides toward greater equity and access. It certainly sells itself as working to level the playing field: Recent stories on the College Board’s press page address racial and gender diversity in AP STEM courses, a narrowing rural accessibility gap and a story on rising college costs and falling aid. But the organization’s re-centering of Europe in its AP World History course works against these pushes toward justice.  In a nation in which many students trace their ancestry to a continent other than Europe, this revision returns us to a “West and the rest” model that should have been left in the early 20th century." (Teaching Tolerance, June 12, 2018)

From the CB:

https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-world-history/course/2019-20-changes?SFMC_cid=EM34687-&rid=47274422