AP World needs modification, not division


Art by Valeria Velasquez

With the College Board’s coming upheaval of the Advanced Placement (AP) World History, this year’s freshmen and every class after may miss out on decades of history education.
This past summer, the College Board shocked many with its coming modification of the AP World curriculum. Instead of comprehensively covering events from the beginning of the world to its present state, the class will be split in two: AP World: Modern and AP World: Ancient.
Right now, only AP World: Modern, with material beginning at about 1200, has been approved. As the 2018-2019 school year progresses, teachers will receive more information regarding the material. On its website, the College Board said it received complaints that the current class taught too much information in too little time, which served as its main motivation for their decision. In weighing the pros and cons, however, it made severe errors. AP World is effective because of its extensive course of study. Cutting the class in half is not the answer.
The very existence of a modern-only AP World class puts history in an entirely different context, distinct from the one it actually exists in. Educating history from the 1200s means teachers can only gloss over the centuries that came before then.
It does not properly teach everything that happened before, everything that allowed the complex governmental, social and economic systems of modern times to become what they are. Imagine elementary schoolers learning long division before subtraction, or science classes teaching only about the second half of the water cycle.
Sure, students may gain some information, but a class is only effective because it assumes students don’t know the beginnings and teaches from exactly there: the start.
Starting the class around 1200, ironically, risks what both RBHS AP World teaching teams criticize: Euro-centrism. The majority of the material covers everything after 1450, the beginnings of European colonialism. Because the class will go into more detail about a smaller amount of time, students might learn about other things happening in the world besides that. Colonialism, however, had a major impact on the world once it began. Even if the class teaches about more than colonialism, there’s no doubt the significance of it on the world’s development. AP World: Modern will almost definitely emphasize Europe’s impact on world history as a recurring theme.
Some argue cutting AP World in half allows for a more in-depth teaching. While this may be true, there is little justification for teaching about anything that happened in later history without providing the thousands of years of development in the world that led up to them first.
The truth is, every class could delve further into its material. Civics doesn’t go nearly as far into the U.S. government as it could. In biology classes there could probably be an entire semester on genetics, a concept briefly covered. A high school class, AP or not, cannot entirely cover its subject area. The solution to that problem is not to take the class apart like a puzzle, hold up one piece and act as if it is complete.
While the College Board claims its decision should help students, it actually presents another hurdle for low-income high schoolers.
Splitting up AP World, in reality, only benefits the College Board, who makes a significant chunk of its money from AP courses and exams. The cost of taking two AP tests may limit students who wish to take both classes.
College Board offers a Pre-AP World History and Geography course, but it comes at a financial cost to schools and as a result, may prevent poorer districts from providing at least a full overview of world history.
Additionally, schools may not be able to afford to hire new teachers for these separate courses. If they can, chances are they may hire an under qualified instructor, something particularly unsuited for the first AP course many high schoolers take. Where a school is or how much money it has should not hinder students from receiving the same education as everyone else.
From elementary school, students see history from an overwhelmingly European lens. AP World provides an opportunity to break free from an incomplete view of the world and see modern events in their proper context.
Cutting AP World in half reinforces the idea that the foundations of modern history don’t matter. Creating another AP course puts a financial burden on those who want to learn about necessary parts of history. Making AP World into two separate courses is not only unreasonable, but also harmful to students’ understanding of the world.
What do you think about College Board’s decision? Let us know in the comments below.