Teachers Fight To Keep Pre-Colonial World History In AP Course

By Sameer Rao Jun 12, 2018

Advanced civilizations flourished throughout Africa, Asia and the Americas well before Europe escaped the Dark Ages and colonized parts of the world. Yet the College Board, the non-profit that administers Advanced Placement (AP) classes, has now made a decision to remove these civilizations from the curriculum of AP world history courses.  

Politico reported yesterday (June 11) that several teachers confronted Trevor Packer, the College Board’s vice president of AP and Instruction, at an open forum in Salt Lake City last week. Educators took issue with the College Board’s recent change to the course, which sets the beginning of tested material to 1450—approximately the beginning of European colonialism. Several high school teachers said that the alteration effectively erases the pre-colonial history of people of color from the curriculum. This is an especially big issue to teachers of students of color, who otherwise rarely see themselves represented with nuance or strength in high school courses. 

“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," Oakland-based educator Amanda DoAmaral said to Packer in a video from the forum that went viral. "The people in power in our country already are telling those same students that their history, present and future doesn’t matter."

The College Board said on its website that it made the change to make the course more manageable: 


The current AP World History course and exam cover 10,000 years of history across all seven continents. No other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single 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 statement offers suggestions for addressing the pre-colonial period, including a "pre-AP" course. Packer mentioned this possibility to DoAmaral, who responded: "The state might subsidize the test, [but] they’re not going to subsidize your pre-AP World class, and our schools are not going to teach that."

"They don’t have the money for pencils, dude!" she continued to applause. 

The College Board also noted that the new frame for testing won’t stop teachers from incorporating pre-1450 material in AP World History courses, for which students can earn college credits. But Dylan Black, a New Jersey high school student who launched a petition against the changes, acknowledged that the change essentially prevents college-bound students from learning anything that won’t be tested. Black called the pre-AP course, which does not yield a college credit, “just a fancier way of saying an honors course."

“It would be cutting down so many people’s different histories—like Asian history before imperialism, American history before Columbus and African history before slavery," Oakland high school student Noah Mitchell noted to Politico. "Really, the message that this would be sending is that their histories don’t really matter.”

Packer tweeted after the forum that the feedback motivated him to consider unspecified changes to the course model, which would take effect in the 2019-2020 school year.