AP World History Courses May Lose Their Pre-Colonial History Curricula & Teachers Say It Will Hurt Students of Color

AP World History teachers asked for a change, but they received one they didn’t want.

According to POLITICO, the College Board—the organization that controls AP classes and tests—wanted to respond to complaints from teachers that the current AP World History curriculum model is too broad and covers too much information over a too-short period of time, making it largely unmanageable.

The College Board’s solution to this was to split AP World History in two, except the first part, which covers history before 1450 (AKA, before colonialism) would be a pre-AP class that schools would still have to pay for, but that doesn’t come with its own AP test. So what are the implications of that?

Well, less schools would be able to afford and teach the pre-AP class on top of the other AP or pre-AP classes they offer, as pointed out by Amanda DoAmaral, an AP World History teacher who spoke at the AP World Open Forum in Salt Lake City on June 6. “They don’t have the money for pencils, dude!” she pointed out to Trevor Packer, who is the College Board’s senior vice president of AP and instruction. How are they going to teach that class?”

The change also means that less students would take the course in the first place, since they wouldn’t receive college credit. It effectively assigns pre-colonial history a second-class position, and prevents more students from having in-depth awareness of the thriving civilizations of people of color that existed during that time.

“You cannot tell my black and brown students that their history is not going to be tested and then assume that isn’t going to matter,” DoAmaral said. Because she’s right—what we don’t learn impacts us just as much as what we do.

As mentioned by ColorLines, this especially hurts students of color who may otherwise have a Eurocentric view of history in which their ancestors were always oppressed, and who haven’t seen much representation of people of color outside of that framework.

“Their histories don’t start at slavery,” DoAmaral continued, speaking of her black and brown students. “Their histories don’t start at colonization.”

One high school student, Dylan Black, started a petition against the curriculum change that has over 5,000 signatures. In the petition, Black acknowledged that “The class is demanding on students, but is also one of the most rewarding, life changing classes I've ever had the privilege to take,” suggesting that the College Board’s decision would do more harm than good.

This move to start AP World History at 1450, roughly around the beginning of European colonialism, is poorly planned at best and deeply suspicious at worst. And it has the potential to perpetuate harmful narratives of Eurocentrism in the minds of high school students.

DoAmaral pointed out another major flaw in the College Board’s choice. “I would love to see how many black and brown professionals are on the board making those decisions,” she said. I would, too.