First I want to thank you for considering ideas from AP World History teachers (I was at the Open Forum but I hate public speaking, so I am writing instead) about the proposed change to 1450-present. I know you’ve probably been inundated with reasons why we should leave it alone, or at least keep period 3. You’ve already been told we don’t have money for Pre-AP. Leaders in our field like Dr. Ross Dunn, Dr. Peter Stearns and all the chief readers plus the AHA have taken a stand against the changes, along with many others. I’m confident you’ve seen the articles in Politico, Education Week, OZY.com, The Hill and other news sources. I’m not going to reiterate all that. They have already explained better than I ever could how world history as a discipline came about, how this course drove it, and what the original purpose was and how the change to 1450 will destroy everything we’ve been trying to do for the last two decades. I know you’ve already heard that we know there’s too much info but that we’d like to reduce the number of details necessary rather than the number of years the course covers. More breadth, less depth and all that. For that, I defer to others.
What I do want to call your attention to, however, is ignorance. There is a great deal of ignorance in America (actually the world, not just US). If you have any doubt, please read the article below, and the accompanying comments. It was actually painful for me to read this, because I have spent the last 24 years trying to combat such ignorance. People fear “the other.” It’s clear from those comments. AP World History has been a bright shining star in reducing that ignorance, because when kids learn actual facts about other cultures, the old stereotypes and bigotry tend to go away. Yes, there WAS important stuff going on in Africa before the Europeans came. Yes, there WERE times when India and China controlled the world. The Middle East has given us HUNDREDS of technological and scientific ideas that we use today, from algebra to surgery to the lenses in my glasses that help me see to write this. The contributions of non-Western cultures are massive, but people just don’t know that because they’ve never been taught about it. With this course, the College Board has taken the opportunity (much like the Supreme Court did with Brown vs Bd of Ed to desegregate schools in 1954) to push education in a direction that helps fight ignorance. You can’t FORCE people to respect other cultures, but you CAN give them information. That’s what this class has done. I would be happy to send you sample comments from former students who say this class changed their life. Starting at 1450 would return us to the “old way” that I was taught in my own high school—that Britain, France & Germany created the world we live in today. Turns out that is simply not true. Getting more information changed MY life, certainly, and has pushed a girl from small town Kentucky to travel to 14 countries and teach thousands of public school students how important it is to learn EVERYONE’s story. AP World History made that happen.
Remember I am not sending this article because I agree with it. In fact, I think many of the comments come from people I do NOT ever want to meet. I’m sending it to you because I want you to know what we are up against. If world history teachers are going to combat THIS and try to teach respect for diversity, it is NOT an easy fight. I’m sending you this article because we desperately need the College Board to help us spread the WHOLE story, not just the one in which the white people control everything. Clearly from these comments you’ll see there ARE people out there who think that’s a good thing. Racism and ignorance are alive and kicking. The only way we can combat that is with education. Please help. Nothing less than the future of the entire world is at stake. That’s not hyperbole. If we don’t learn that other cultures are not failed attempts at being us (Wade Davis’ idea, not mine) then we are in big trouble trying to live in today’s global society. AP World History teachers like me are willing to do whatever it takes to solve this problem but having the support of the College Board would make that fight against ignorance and bigotry far easier.
Anyway, here is the link to the article and the absolutely terrifying comments that accompany it. I submit it as Exhibit A for why we need AP World History to retain its truly global and long-term perspective:
Thanks again for taking comments from teachers, and I would be happy to continue to discuss this important issue with you at any time. I know learning is as important to you as it is to me and have faith that we can find a way to continue to make that happen for thousands of students (the leaders of the future, by the way) all across America.
Michelle Peck Williams, NBCT
AP World History & Current Events Teacher
Social Studies Department Chair
Paul Laurence Dunbar HS, Lexington, KY USA