After the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year, the College Board will eliminate the entire first half of the AP World History curriculum. The course, which currently splits world history dating back 10,000 years into 6 sections, will now only cover the latter 3 sections beginning at 1200 C.E.
This choice has been made after years of contemplating the ability of students to adequately handle the large timeline the current course covers. At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, a survey was sent to AP World History teachers across the nation to gauge how well students and teachers were able to manage the course.
“There is a wide agreement that the status quo - keeping the existing course, which covers 10,000 years of world history - is not a sustainable option,” College Board
Despite the enormity of the history covered in the old curriculum, teachers don’t necessarily agree that cutting so much history was the right decision.
“They feel like they’re answering teachers,” AP World teacher Stephen Klawiter said. “But I don’t think the survey was ever worded to ask ‘Do you favor getting rid of these three eras of history?’ I think if it was worded like that, they would have gotten very different results.”
College Board had originally meant to start the course at 1450 C.E. However, due to excessive backlash from College Board's former test development committees, their curriculum committees, the World History Association and college professors College Board decided to push back the curriculum to begin at 1200 C.E.
“Their plan was to start the course at 1450, which is very problematic because they essentially eliminated all of the world history before that, and you're starting with the point where Europeans show up, and either enslave people or conquer people,” Klawiter said. “So for students, they're going to miss the richness of world civilizations that existed before the Europeans showed up.”
College Board's response to the backlash was deemed insufficient by most history teachers.
“They’re still cutting thousands of years of history away. It doesn’t really solve the problem,” Klawiter said.
"One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present." -Golda Meir, Former Prime Minister of Israel
However, Klawiter is confident that this ancient world history will not be completely ignored by teachers and students.
“I think we will have to change substantially, because we have to prepare students for the exam,” Klawiter said. “But, we’re going to have to provide context for the material that we will be teaching so we will have to refer back to those eras.”
Students react to changes in AP World History curriculum
One thing preventing College Board from retracting the changes and reinstating the previous curriculum is the creation of their Pre-AP program.
“A lot of schools have pre-AP classes, but they are created by the individual districts,” Klawiter said. “Now College Board is trying to sell their own pre-AP courses to districts. It’s a new business, and that’s where they have put the three previous chunks of history.”
College Board is also investigating the creation of a separate course for the previous sections of AP World History, similar to the way AP United States Government and AP Comparative Government are currently split into two AP courses. These courses would then be called AP World History: Ancient, which would cover the Paleolithic Era to 1200 C.E., and AP World History: Modern, which would cover 1200 C.E. to the present.
Similar to actual college courses, AP World History: Modern and AP World History: Ancient would cover less time and be taught in greater detail.
“The College Board collected extensive data from higher education institutions and secondary schools on how they manage the unique breadth of world history as a discipline,” the College Board said. “Colleges consistently divide the survey of world history across two or three courses. Colleges that offer a two-course world history survey overwhelmingly divide courses at the beginning of the modern era.”
According to the College Board, colleges focus more on the modern era of history, 1450 to the present, making AP World History: Modern the course that will replace the current AP World History course.
For schools to offer AP World History: Ancient, schools must fill out a High School Interest Form and email or mail it to the College Board.
“A minimum of 2,500 high schools (approximately 15 percent of all that offer Advanced Placement) must attest to their commitment to offering a new AP World History: Ancient course and exam, in addition to AP World History: Modern,” the College Board said.
"We are not makers of history. We are made by history." - Martin Luther King Jr.
Essentially, if the AP World History: Ancient course is approved, the course could return to its normal curriculum, with students taking AP World History: Ancient 1st semester and AP World History: Modern 2nd semester. However, this leaves students with not one, but two, AP exams.
Ultimately, the proposed changes to the AP World History curriculum has been met with nationwide concerns, stating that the changes just complicate the course and are not beneficial for students.
“I do not think it will be enriching for students to have more time to spend on the last three eras,” Klawiter said. “What we do in AP World is very skills oriented, there's a lot of comparison, tracking change and continuity over time, and some of those skills they won’t be able to practice effectively because you’re just starting at 1200.”
Critics and teachers alike are dissatisfied with the removal of such critical periods of history and are continuing to voice this opinion to the College Board.
“It’s true we will have more time to spend on topics, but I think that the cost of missing out on these earlier periods of societies that were extremely sophisticated, and flourished at a time when Europe struggled is understated,” Klawiter said. “This is a global age, no matter where they live, students need to understand the history of India, of China, and of the Middle East just to be competitive in this age.”