A Whole New World | Ellyse Givens

I remember my days in Mrs. Melkonian’s AP World History class more vividly than I probably should. That’s most likely because, half the time, I walked into room C108 fearful of yet another day facing the ferocious demons that came to continuously follow me home and creep up on me while I slept: stimulus-based multiple choice questions. They were the scariest things I’ve ever seen; the cause of the many tears and hopeless pleads to the College Board gods, who were probably gleefully cackling above me as I stared down at weekly quizzes in utter confusion. However, despite my sometimes irrational (yet arguably justified) fear of this class, I found myself growing to deeply enjoy it over time. Those stimulus based multiple choice questions came to play less prominent roles in my nightmares--no longer monsters evoking anxiety, but merely routine rituals. I walked out of the classroom not solely relieved to have survived, but rather appreciative of the invaluable perspective on the world I had been able to develop. 

However, despite my and many of my other fellow students’ newfound appreciation for the course, those lovely College Board deities I so fondly mentioned earlier have implemented a drastic curriculum change for the course as of the 2019-2020 school year. The class is now called ‘AP World History: Modern’, and will cover only historical events that took place in a relatively contemporary timeframe: starting in 1200 CE, students will first examine cultures in the Americas, Asia, and Africa, shortly before Columbus’ travels and then conclude with globalization in present times. So instead of worriedly walking through the classroom doors on the first day and being introduced to early humans, the Neolithic Revolution, and later Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece, the kids of today fast forward straight to the Muslim Caliphate in the 1200s. Maybe the College Board is just assuming that these new students are far more competent and capable than 15 year-old me was. 

With these alterations, students need to know about fewer time periods; however, they are now studying each time period that is still included in the course more deeply. According to a College Board spokesperson, this change stems from years of complaints that the content was much too voluminous to fully grasp, and that the curriculum was continuously difficult for teachers to finish in one year. However, many students and teachers around the country are appalled by this abrupt labelling of the early achievements of our world pre-American colonization as seemingly unimportant. Dylan Black, a high school student from New Jersey, started a petition on change.org advocating for a reversal of the decision. Educator Amanda DoAmaral told Trevor Packer, the College Board senior advisor in charge of the AP program, that the changes were going to have negative effects on her students of color in an impassioned exchange caught on video. 

Despite this uproar of criticism last summer, the College Board still chose to implement these new changes, and as of January, the first CCA sophomores to take the ‘AP World History: Modern’ course have completed the new class. Sophomore Kaley Mafong, among those students, says that she enjoyed it, but that she wishes she “would have learned about the more ancient civilizations just to have more of a background and more perspective of the events that led up to where we are.” She states that not covering the earlier civilizations “definitely curtailed” her understanding of later time periods; for example, not learning about Greek and Roman art caused her to be unable to “grasp the full concept of what the Europeans were seeking to emulate” during the Renaissance- which is considered a “rebirth” of Greek and Roman art. 

Considering College Board officials’ recurrent tendencies to exhibit a ruthless reign over high school students that surpasses the kings mentioned in our AP World textbooks, reversal of these changes is really not likely. The College Board says that it will supplement for its confiscation of thousands years of human events with another course, ‘AP World History: Ancient’, but limited information has been released regarding the framework of this or its approximate launch date. Until then, we need to encourage our bright-eyed and eager sophomores to embrace this new curriculum, yet also realize that there is indeed so much more to the world’s story than what lies within their textbooks.