This article was originally featured in the Oct. 19 print edition of The Hawk Talk.
China’s Han Dynasty, Islamic caliphates, the Gupta empire, the Olmecs, Ghana. All are influential civilizations that the College Board is removing from the AP World History curriculum beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. Under this new plan, the course will only cover content after 1200 C.E., which will take pressure off of students but will also promote eurocentrism, a worldview biased towards the accomplishments of Europeans that often excludes the histories of minority cultures.
Currently, AP World covers 10,000 years of human history and includes civilizations from every world region. Teaching this breadth of information in a single year is a difficult task, and teachers across the country expressed that they were not able to cover certain topics in enough depth. This change attempts to remedy the situation, but it creates its own problems.
“One of my biggest concerns is that, with this shift to reducing the timeframe we’re talking about, we’re also looking at reducing the importance of various cultures,” AP World teacher Marissa Petty said.
Originally, the College Board proposed starting the course in 1450 C.E., which marks the beginning of European conquest, but severe backlash from teachers and students alike forced revisions. These restored some pre-contact societies to the curriculum but still left out early civilizations that created the basis of regional cultures, which are critical to studying modern history without a Eurocentric perspective.
“I feel like if you’re not learning about ancient history then you don’t know the full story behind every single country and how they had an impact,” former AP World student Ashley Milligan (‘20) said.
The College Board has expressed interest in creating a second course, AP World: Ancient, to supplement the changes. However, creating a course takes two to six years, so a whole generation of students will go without this foundation.
With this change, students lose a global perspective of history necessary to respect people and issues from all regions of the world, as many current conflicts, such as those embroiling the Middle East, are rooted in the distant past.
“I think we run the risk in 15-20 years of having people who are even less culturally aware than we currently are and eventually losing the ability to empathize with people who are not like us,” Petty said.