I just returned home from the AP World History reading in Salt Lake City, where I attended the contentious forum hosted by the College Board’s Vice President for AP Programs, Trevor Packer. At this forum Packer defended the recently announced change to the AP World History exam which would reduce the scope of the Exam to 1450 CE to present. Packer later walked this back by promising to consider “coherent reinclusion of essential concepts from Period 3.”
The forum was emotional and at times raucous . While I I generally disagree with the announced changes, I do agree with Packer’s statement that a World History course need not and should not be Eurocentric. It should be global, and World History teachers need to push each other to eschew a Europe and Friends approach to the last 500 years. I have worked toward this in my classroom, my building and district, and, through workshop presentations. I am glad to know that the College Board supports this important work, and, like Packer, I trust the Test Development Committee to create a global AP Exam for World History. What will be lost by truncating the course is the valuable stretches of class time covering the non-European world before 1450. This, more than any lesson, lecture, or interpretive framing speaks volumes to the students. As others have remarked this is especially important for students of color who too rarely themselves in curricula. I would add that seeing the broad spectrum of humanity is important in different ways for white students who need to know that people who look like them have not always been on top.
Such curricular inclusivity is especially important in our current political environment. When the President referred to the home countries of some of my students’ families as “shithole[s]” this year, I was very glad that we had spent time talking about West African trading empires. Similarly when the President lambasted some of my students and their families as a “disaster” for Minnesota in the days before the 2016 election, I was glad that we had read Ibn Battuta’s description of Mogadishu as part of the vibrant Swahili society. Time spent outside of these specific areas also felt useful in these moments, because it had communicated to all students that all people are valuable in their own right. This proactive work in teaching a history for all students interrupts, rather than reinforces white supremacy. We need to #SaveAPWorld
I developed these ideas into a letter to the College Board Vice President for AP programs, Trevor Packer.