The Advanced Placement World History course will no longer include precolonial civilizations. Scott Simon talks to Amanda DoAmaral, a former AP World History teacher, about why she opposes the change.
"That means no pre-Columbian civilizations, nothing about Africa until slavery. ... There's no Ghengis Khan or the Mongols, the biggest empire the world has ever seen," she said. "This is really the only time students will have a chance to see the broad sweep of history, to understand the long human past. And lopping it off at the last 500 years is not going to give them the same thing."
The nonprofit College Board, which administers the AP curriculum and tests, announced last month that it intended to pare back the World History curriculum beginning in 2019, and add a pre-world history course schools could purchase with content that would not be tested. It said it was making the change in response to teachers who feel the massive scope of the course is too much to cover in a single class and to better align with college courses.
Facing an onslaught of criticism, the board now appears to be walking back that move.
Frantz Fanon argued that the colonized had their early history “devalued” as a way to create dependency and hopelessness. “It was with the greatest delight,” however, he wrote, “that they discovered that there was nothing to be ashamed of in the past, but rather dignity, glory, and solemnity.” APWH, as it stands, is a beautiful course, one that enables all Americans to encounter dignity, glory, and solemnity in their past. Its meteoric growth is testament to the fact that it is also a course that speaks to today’s students, millions of whom have been inspired by its message. To sacrifice this would be a tragic mistake.
RABBLE-ROUSING is not a term often used to describe historians. But teachers of Advanced Placement (AP) World History—a course taken by clever high-school pupils to bank college credit and impress universities—have organised themselves into an uprising of sorts. It was prompted by an announcement by the College Board, the non-profit organisation that administers the AP programme, that it was revising the world history course so that it only assessed knowledge of world events after the year 1450. Currently, the course examines human history from 10,000 BC to the present day….
…This is a seriously retrograde step. I've just seen a great letter that Ross Dunn and some colleagues have prepared and fully endorse what they say...I was briefly on the committee to revise the world history syllabus and even then could see a resistance to the sort of wider perspective that I and colleagues have fought for for years. I fear the College Board will not [budge] on this, but perhaps they are surprised by the extent of the pushback…
This decision also moves AP World History in the opposite direction from the way college courses in world history and the field as a whole have been developing in the last decades. Thus those among us who influence AP policy on our campuses will recommend that because of this step backward those campuses stop offering AP credit for this course, and we will share our reasons for doing so more widely with the academic community.
At the June 5th open forum in Salt Lake and in email discussions both before and after that meeting, many teachers suggested a compromise proposal to drop Periods 1 and 2 from the exam but retain Period 3. These educators made a persuasive case for the idea that many of their students respond more enthusiastically to study of Period 3 than to any other. In my view such keenness is easily explained, and not just because of Mongols and the Black Death. Other teachers have argued that the balance of political, economic, and cultural weight among the world’s peoples was much different in Period 3 than in the centuries after 1450, and especially after 1750 when Western Europe’s two centuries of hegemonic power got underway. The College Board, teachers have contended, has an obligation to introduce world history students to the broad multilateral sway of a number of both Afroeurasian and American societies between 600 and 1450, well as to the interrelations among them. As teacher Amanda so aptly remarked at the open forum, the history of Africa did not begin with trans-Atlantic slavery.
While recognizing the challenges of teaching the current course with its broad scope, the 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.
The College Board’s reconsideration should involve consultation with leading practitioners in the field before implementing such a significant change in the scope of the exam (and by implication the curriculum as a whole). The AHA offers to organize conversations between the College Board and historians who teach in various classroom contexts. A session at the 2019 AHA annual meeting will discuss the AP World History exam and explore how to teach AP-level world history in a way that preserves its multi-vocal richness and chronological breadth.
Currently, the test committee is working to pare back some of the proposed coverage from 1450 onward, to make room for a real unit on key developments in the centuries before 1450 – the nature of exchanges, the major societies and cultures that flourished in what is now called “period 3”. They recognize, in other words, the validity of the downsides to the 1450 start date; and they never intended a hymn to the West in the first place.
Again, some of my colleagues will remain disappointed. The inability to do much with the classical period or the implications of the rise of agriculture is a limitation: but clearly we can’t have everything, and some concessions to feasibility and organizational reality strikes me as essential.
Richard Warner, the Jane and Frederic Hadley Chair in history at Wabash College, former president of the World History Association and a current member of the College Board’s AP World History test-development committee, said he’s currently working to address various concerns about the test. Under discussion is whether to recommend to the College Board to “back up the starting point a little, say to 1200, which should address some of the critiques of Eurocentrism that have been raised,” he said.
As for how the change might impact academe, Warner said it will vary by institution. At Wabash, for example, he said, students who earn AP credit for world history in high school get to choose which history survey course to apply it to: world history to 1500 or world history since 1500. If the College Board goes through with its current plan, he said, Wabash would likely only accept AP credit for the latter survey. Other institutions sometimes award more credit, for two courses, or “both halves,” he said. Some might decide to only award one course worth of credit, he said. But “given the competition that has emerged in relation to admissions, I doubt we will see many colleges pull out.”
Meanwhile, critics of the change aren’t convinced that relegating early world history to the pre-AP course will do much to preserve that instruction, in part because the College Board will charge schools an additional, possibly cost-prohibitive fee to offer the pre-AP course and in part because that intro class won’t be a prerequisite for the regular AP course nor come with a high-stakes—and valuable—exam. Because the prospect of a resume-boosting high test score and the concomitant college credit is a major incentive for taking AP World, fewer students may seek out the pre-AP course.
And as George, the Michigan teacher, points out, the exclusion of pre-1450 C.E. material from the AP exam could discourage even the most dedicated teachers from prioritizing that material in class. “How can we allocate the amount of time that Periods 1-3 require if it will not be tested?” he asked. “We can’t.”
t may not be comfortable for parents to realize that their kids’ teachers are molded by an almost entirely left-wing credentialing cartel, but it’s been happening for decades and is now overtly politicizing K-12 history classes. This week high school teachers protested the College Board’s changes to its Advanced Placement world history classes, which thousands of high schools teach across the country every year.
“You cannot tell my black and brown students that their history is not going to be tested and then assume that that’s not going to matter. Right, the people in power in our country already are telling those same students that their history, that their present, that their future doesn’t matter. And by you making this decision, you are going along with that,” teacher Amanda DoAmaral told College Board Senior Vice President Trevor Packer at a conference this week.
High school history teachers are fighting back against a change to the Advanced Placement World History course, arguing that it will eliminate lessons on pre-colonial civilizations and present a Eurocentric view of the world.
Under the changes, the AP course will start teaching world history from the year 1450, which largely eliminates study of the pre-colonial Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Instruction on earlier eras would instead be included in a pre-AP course that is not tested. Teachers, though, argued schools won’t offer the pre-course due to its cost and that students would be reluctant to take it because it isn't eligible for college credit.
The change is set to take effect during the 2019-2020 school year. Schools will have to pay anywhere from $600 to $6,500 to offer the new pre-AP course, according to Politico.
The College Board also noted that the new frame for testing won’t stop teachers from incorporating pre-1450 material in AP World History courses, for which students can earn college credits. But Dylan Black, a New Jersey high school student who launched a petition against the changes, acknowledged that the change essentially prevents college-bound students from learning anything that won’t be tested. Black called the pre-AP course, which does not yield a college credit, “just a fancier way of saying an honors course.”
“It would be cutting down so many people’s different histories—like Asian history before imperialism, American history before Columbus and African history before slavery,” Oakland high school student Noah Mitchell noted to Politico. “Really, the message that this would be sending is that their histories don’t really matter.”
When Packer asked DoAmaral why she didn't just teach the new pre-AP course covering the early history, she argued that schools couldn't afford it. "They don't have money for pencils, dude," she said. "They will not pay for a pre-AP class."
Starting in fall 2019, schools will pay between $1,200 and $6,500 for each pre-AP course, depending on the number of students and courses taught. Discounts are available to schools that teach three or more AP courses.
A high school student's petition to stop the revision of AP World History has garnered more than 5,000 signatures. "The class is demanding on students, but is also one of the most rewarding, life changing classes I've ever had the privilege to take," wrote the petition's author, Dylan Black of Tinton Falls, N.J.
The change isn’t just bad business. It’s bad pedagogy. History is the study of context; “Contextualization” is literally the first of four “AP History Reasoning Skills” the College Board expects students to display. But the year 1450 is an arbitrary starting point, unless the goal is to steer students toward a study of European colonialization. Certainly that is the direction the former course and exam team worries the new course will take. The proposed changes, they wrote, will almost certainly “steer teachers into a Eurocentric narrative.”
High school history teachers are in revolt over the alteration of a widely taught Advanced Placement course that they say threatens to present a skewed, Eurocentric history of the world to thousands of students.
The plan is so incendiary that outraged history teachers protested against it this week at an open forum in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Trevor Packer, senior vice president of Advanced Placement and instruction at the College Board. A video of a testy exchange between Packer and the teachers has been shared hundreds of times online. The standoff touches on issues of culture, color and history with which schools — and society — have been wrangling….