All the former leaders of the AP World History course and exam team are dismayed by the College Board’s decision to limit the scope of the world history exam to the period after 1450. Suggesting that schools offer two years of AP World History or that students enroll in Pre-AP courses are not realistic solutions to truncating the course in the way that College Board is doing, nor is directing teachers to “review” certain content from earlier periods. We agree with the many teachers who have already commented that the 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 two decades of dedicated work by teachers and faculty across the US. It erases one of the few opportunities that students have to engage meaningfully with non-Western cultures in the current K-12 landscape—an opportunity that is especially crucial for students of color. Because we led the teams that developed, revised, and administered the course and exam, we know first-hand that emphasizing—and then assessing—basic concepts, large-scale processes, and big ideas is challenging. The remedy, though, is not to narrow the chronological scope of the course or exam to a tiny sliver of human history, but rather to embrace the long chronological scope and wide spatial lens that are foundational principles of world history. Students need a multivocal past in order to understand and move forward in an increasingly interdependent world. The College Board’s decision to begin the course in 1450 works directly against this goal. 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.
Peter Stearns George Mason University Kenneth Curtis California State University, Long Beach Alan Karras University of California, Berkeley Laura J. Mitchell University of California, Irvine
Merry Wiesner-Hanks University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Bram Hubbell Friends Seminary, New York City
Erik Vincent Holy Innocents Episcopal School, Atlanta Dean Ferguson Texas A&M University, Kingsville Craig Benjamin Grand Valley State Universit