AP World History lengthened to avoid being too 'Western-centric'
- After cutting 8,000 years from the curriculum of its AP World History course, the College Board has decided to restore 250 years to the course, which will now cover world history from 1200 CE to the present.
- Some scholars had complained that the abridged course would be too "Western-centric" because it would not include "precolonial histories," an objection that the College Board sought to satisfy with the compromise.
The College Board recently announced that it will restore 250 years worth of material that it had recently cut from its Advanced Placement World History curriculum.
As previously reported by Campus Reform, the College Board came under fire earlier this year for excising 8,000 years from its World History course, which some scholars predicted would make the remaining curriculum too “Western-centric.”
After considerable backlash, however, the College Board has agreed to add 250 years to the curriculum, announcing that the course will now cover world history starting in 1200 CE, instead of 1450 CE.
Assuming it meets with the approval of high school and college administrators, the organization plans to develop a new “AP World History: Ancient” course and exam that will cover world history prior to 1200 CE.
“Since our recent announcement about changes to AP World History, which were meant to alleviate that problem, we’ve received thoughtful, principled feedback from AP teachers, students, and college faculty,” the College Board said in a statement.
“This feedback underscores that we share the same priorities: engaging students in the rich histories of civilizations across the globe and ensuring that such important content is given the time it deserves,” the organization continued.
The original curriculum change raised eyebrows among critics, some of whom argued that cutting thousands of years from the course would result in a "Western-centric" program.
Others, however, have argued that narrowing the scope of the course will actually have the opposite effect, since it will enable a more thorough treatment of topics related to both European and non-European history.
According to Inside Higher Ed, the idea for moving the starting point to 1200 CE came from the College Board’s AP World History test-development committee, which includes college professors.
Rachel Jean Baptiste, the committee’s co-chair, explained that the new timeline “allows students to gain global perspectives and knowledge that come with studying the rich and interconnected histories of African, Asian, Central American, and European civilizations so they can engage more deeply in these topics once they get to college.”
The College Board initially defended its decision to narrow the curriculum, arguing that there is not enough time for teachers to properly cover the relevant material in just one school year.
“AP World History teachers have told us over the years that the scope of content is simply too broad, and that they often need to sacrifice depth to cover it all in a single year,” the organization maintained at the time, noting that “colleges and universities typically do not cover all of world history in a single course, but in two or more separate courses.”
In its latest update, the College Board reiterates that its current course and exam covers “10,000 years of human history,” whereas “colleges manage the unique breadth of world history by spreading the content across multiple courses.”
“Because AP World History does not do so, a majority of AP World History teachers have told us that they were teaching too little about too much,” the organization asserts, adding that “Students’ essay scores on the end-of-year AP Exam have reflected that overwhelming challenge.”
In response to the College Board’s recent backtrack, National Association of Scholars (NAS) Public Affairs Director Glenn Ricketts told Campus Reform that the tweak “appears to be an improvement, since a longer period of history will be included in the exam.”
“We'll have to wait and see exactly what the College Board will do in specific terms, but at this point, we remain very skeptical of the whole ‘world civilization’ concept,” he added.
Ricketts also suggested that “there's nothing wrong at all with studying non-Western societies and civilizations, but without the kind of reference frame that we think is necessary, students will ironically receive a very ‘westernized’ view of them through the lens of ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism,’ both thoroughly western, and not shared by the people who are being ‘included.’”
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