Changes to AP World History

Current AP World History: Modern students work on a project to cover the foundations of human history, including years that were removed from the course this school year. Photo by Katie Fendick

For many Franklin High School sophomores, AP World History is the introductory class to the world of AP courses. This year, major changes to the course have been put in place. Before, students would study over 8,000 years of history, but with the new curriculum, this time span has dropped significantly. Now starting in the beginning of the 13th century, students miss out on the earlier periods that previous classes would start with. These changes affect everyone involved, and in this first year, teachers and students alike must figure out how to navigate through the new course. 

From AP World History to AP World History: Modern, it is easy to slip into a European centric history class. Rachel Draper, who has been teaching the AP World class at Franklin for six years, expresses her concerns around the class. “Teachers have to be careful to make sure they don’t end up over representing just Europe. It’s really not a European history course, but sometimes 1200s on can be more European focused,” Draper explains. This concern is a valid one. Many students who sign up to take this course have never really taken any world history classes before. Sophomore year is the first year of high school students are required to take a history class, and the perspective you get from world history is very important. To achieve this perspective, everyone needs to work to ensure that it stays with the world view and doesn’t focus in on any one region. 

8,000 years is intimidating to say the least, and cutting down that number might be a good idea according to Kate Moore, who has been teaching this course at Franklin for two years. “I’m actually glad that we are teaching less because it was too much material to cover [in a year],” Moore states. This may be true, although some students who have taken the course before the recent changes seemed to enjoy the amount covered. Emma Doty (11), a previous AP World student, argues that , “Starting from earlier was actually easier because then you got an overview of history.” Doty says this overview is very necessary. “I think starting at 1200 cuts out an entire period that’s important and something we still need to look back on and learn from,” she says. One reason people still study the past is to view how humans reacted and learn from their experiences. Getting an overview of all of human history gives you more opportunities to see patterns and ideas that repeat themselves. 

Even if the reasons students are taking this course is for the test at the end of the year, context is very important. Without context, history can get very confusing. By cutting out the beginning of human history, which was covered in the original course, you lose the origin stories of religions, ideas and civilizations that play big parts in the modern world history that students are currently studying. Draper, Moore and Brian Halberg, the third  AP World History: Modern teacher at Franklin, will address this issue with a shorter introductory unit to give the missing context.  “We are going through the …  foundation a lot faster, it’s sort of basic information about classical civilizations and how human beings got established as modern humans,” Moore explains. This foundation used to be a complete unit included with the course but has now been removed due to the changes. 

Finally, with the shortened course, the units have changed. Those who have taken the course before remember the six units splitting up over 8,000 years of history. With the change comes new units, and instead of six there are now nine. “In the past we kind of went chronological but the new curriculum is by theme so I am a little bit worried for students because we jump around a lot more,” Draper notes. This style of teaching history may be preferred by some. However, with studying by theme when covering modern world history, contextualizing timelines can quickly become difficult.   

These are still the first months of the new curriculum and no one knows for sure how this change will impact student satisfaction, teachers opinions, or scores for the AP test. However, by not including a full timeline and understanding of ancient history, do we lose important lessons? 

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