World History Association Letter to College Board
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.
-Mary Beth Norton & James Grossman
Mark Pontoni, Teacher, Boyne City High School
Dr. Valerie C. Rutledge, Dean, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Midwest World History Officers, Louisa Rice, President
Jillian Jackson, Former AP World History and AP European History Student
Robin Martin, Ph.D., Director, Asia for Educators
Quotes from our Letters to Trevor
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...
I am confident my sentiments echo those of thousands of my colleagues who have been teaching AP World History when I say this course has truly been something special. For me, it has never been about the trivia in which such a broad curriculum runs the risk of being trapped—quite the opposite: AP World History, with its full global and historical sweep, has given me and my students license to follow history’s grandest themes wherever they may lead. The chance to compare across all time periods and cultures offers an unparalleled opportunity for students to acquire the perspective, tolerance, and wisdom I heard Jerry Bentley commend.
-Michael Macijeski, AP World History Teacher
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 Sterns, Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Kenneth Curtis, Bram Hubbell, Alan Karras, Erik Vincent, Laura J. Mitchell, Dean Ferguson, Craig Benjamin
The whole point of world history is the emphasis of non-European cultures in the emergence of the modern world. Beginning the course at 1450 sends the message that only "European" history matters. While it is feasible to condense periods 1 and 2, it is impossible to condense periods 1, 2, and 3. We simply cannot gloss over the Islamic caliphates, the Bantu migrations, the Silk/Sea Roads, and the Mongols. I am dedicated to instructing my students of the importance of all cultures. Removing all three periods from the AP World History curriculum severely limits students' knowledge and understanding of the modern world.
-Andrea Michaelis, Broad Street High School
As history teachers, we understand the complexities that a school year can bring to a student population; but here is the reality:
IT IS ABOUT MORE THAN THE HISTORY
It always has been. We as teachers color the background. We shade and tint and create volume. But our students, they give that story depth and reality and truth. And most importantly they give it presence.
They cannot do that without as much of that background and shading and tint and volume as we can give them. If we just present a blank white background, then they will have so little to work with.
-Nate Boegel, Social Studies Teacher
Mr. Packer, I want to be on your side. I want to be on the side of the College Board. I want to be on the right side of history. I want to be a scholar and a historian who shares my loves of a multi-ethnic, multi-perspective, and multicultural history with my students. Given the most recent decision that you state you take full responsibility for....I cannot be all of these things.
-Mia Clark , AP World History Teacher
Today, colleges and universities across the country are axing core history requirements (even whole departments), giving less and less curriculum space to the premodern past, and asking why STEM majors should be bothered with any of the humanities. The College Board should defy such trends. It should not accommodate them by telling students that a modern world history course, lacking a coherent conceptualization, potentially open to creeping Eurocentrism, and perhaps jammed with more fragmented information than ever, is the exciting way to go.
I have taught this course for 14 years and one of my joys of this course is the true inclusiveness of the curriculum. I get to experience this every year at Open House night when I tell the assembled parents and students, who skins tones and cultures that are markedly different from my own, that we get to learn about the richness and heritage of history from all times and parts of the world, not just what I learned back in the ‘70s, which was Western Civilization. The smiles and heartfelt thanks for teaching “their” history (their words, not mine), are all the validation I need, to know that we, AP World History teachers, are doing the right thing.
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. Even if we have “flashback” points to bring up the previous history, it is still to explain “how they got there” and negate the fullness of the times when these peoples were the power. It is to continue to reinforce the false narrative of “history doesn’t matter until the West shows up.” It is to reinforce what I perceive is the rise of anti-intellectualism and anti-“the other”. That is what I was taught and it is wrong. It will always be wrong, and I, for one, refuse to continue that antiquated thought process.
I understand that the amount of content is daunting, but starting World History with young students at 1450 sends only one message: the rise of Europe is the most important thing that ever happened in history. While it’s certainly important, it gives the impression that it’s always been this way and depreciates the importance of the East and its trade routes, it’s world systems and its dominance for much of history. I have many students who are of Middle Eastern, Indian & Chinese descent. It feels like I would be depriving them of their rich history.
The current controversy, though unresolved, does show that the existing AP World History course has a dedicated core of supporters among teachers and academics, and has a strong reputation among historians generally. This active support confirms the basic strength of the course and the distinctive advance it has brought to education in the social sciences. I offer a reminder that the College Board, in the early days of APWH, invested significantly in professional development for teachers. I led, at the Northeastern University World History Center, the 2000 APWH National Training Workshop for 36 nationally selected teacher presenters, and led the 2001 group of about 8 scholars and teachers who created the AP World History Best Practices Guide, as well as producing an additional 13 teaching units. These investments were important in jump-starting the course.
At that time, the College Board was investing in world history when others would not. Colleges taught the course poorly; general world history courses in secondary schools were commonly assigned to teachers of lowest rank. In contrast, the steady growth of APWH has shown that a major curricular innovation is possible—one that addresses new knowledge, new pedagogy, and social needs. AP World History has advanced itself—overcoming pedagogical and organizational disputes—and by example has brought up the level of world history instruction in other venues.
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. That will take imagination and, above all, a monetary investment. More than any other institution, the College Board is well placed to rededicate itself to expanding the positive results arising from the remarkable educational advances brought since 2001 by the AP World History course.