AP World History Teacher
Dear Trevor Packer,
Thank you for taking the time to read this email about my thoughts on the proposed changes to AP World. This was my first year teaching AP World but as a student in Maryland I took AP world in 2010 and it was my favorite class. I have loved teaching this course and being part of the educational community surrounding this course.
I'm writing you today because I strongly disagree with your decision to begin the course at 1450. I understand the temptation, this course is hard to learn and hard to teach because of the quantity of information that is required to be covered along with the writing skills attached to teach a college level course to high school students. However, I feel that by starting the tested content of this course at 1450 you are doing a disservice to students because they will not learn about the history of the world prior to Europe's rise to power, thus contributing to a Eurocentric understanding of world history. In addition, the idea that students will learn this information by taking a pre-ap world history course ignores two important facts. First, that many school districts cannot afford to pay for College Board's pre-ap course and second, that many schools across the nation do not structure their social studies programs to allow for two years of world history.
In regards to my first point, by starting the course at 1450 you are implying that the history that matters is history that begins with Europe's rise to power. The Key concepts for period 4 for example especially focus on how Europe affected the Americas and Africa but make no requirement of teacher to discuss the African and American Empires and Societies that were there before Europe disrupted them. This is a problem. Those students who are unable to take pre-AP and only have one year of world history available to them (the vast majority of students) may very well never learn about the Inca during their heyday or Ghana, Mali, and Songhai during theirs. This could lead the students feeling that the "important" history of Africa and the America's starts at European colonization.
I'm aware that it is not your intent to contribute to a Eurocentric understanding of World history but by cutting periods 1-3 your decision will further that end. In the end, the content that is assessed is what matters most to our students and is what is most highly prioritized. The hidden curriculum of school now a days is that what is on the test is what matters and for many of our students, what is on the test has been the history of "The West and the rest". AP World was their chance to have that narrative changed and see that colleges actually do care about the history of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. They learned that the academic world cared about the Golden Age of China for example because it was taught and assessed in depth. To exemplify the difference between what the state of Virginia thinks matters about China vs what AP World as it stands requires, in the 2008 VA SOLs the students don't even have to know the names of the dynasties for China, let alone how Buddhism and Confucianism interacted within those dynasties. In fact, so long as those students could rattle off a list of characteristics of China such as, "Great Wall, Confucianism, Characters, Compass, Paper, Silk" they would probably know everything they really needed to know about China to pass the end of year test as required by the state.
My students have grown up hearing that "This is important because it is on the test". and given that the goal for many of my students is to take the test to earn college credit I cannot fault them for that belief. By making this change you are telling them, regardless of whether I teach Period 3 or Periods 1-3, that "the history that actually matters is Periods 4-6" and I urge you to reconsider. Please keep Period 3 in the curriculum for AP World and assess it.