Ah, the College Board: the bane of many high schoolers’ existences.
If you’re here at UR, you probably took at least one AP exam in high school and the SAT, both of which the College Board oversees. This “not-for-profit” organization with a 2017 total revenue of over $1 billion holds a lot of influence over college admissions. High schoolers are encouraged to take as many AP classes as they can to help improve their chances in college admissions and to get credits early in the game. In 2019 alone, nearly 3 million students took over 5 million AP exams.
The College Board offers 38 exams in a variety of subjects, including three history classes: U.S. History, World History, and European History.
Don’t let the name mislead you — even AP World is heavily focused on Europe, European colonialism, and imperialism, rather than the rich histories of the rest of the world’s cultures and countries.
The College Board needs to develop courses that teach the histories of these different cultures in a way that isn’t so eurocentric. Despite what Americans are taught, the world didn’t start with the arrival of Europeans and end when European countries lost their colonies.
The demand is there — petitions exist that urge the College Board to create classes like African History and improve upon existing courses by including units on systemic racism.
Such courses would give students a more well-rounded worldview and hopefully encourage greater acceptance of different cultures. Hatred and insensitivity often stem from ignorance. An education that includes different regions could create a more globally-minded generation, and avoid, or at least lessen, the racist rhetoric and violence we’ve witnessed so much of lately.
Some may worry that the massive time commitments that come with AP classes would deter many students from taking these courses. But we can ensure that students receive an anti-racist education without overwhelming them by offering semester-long courses. At my high school, AP Economics spent a semester on macroeconomics and a semester on microeconomics, and AP Government and Politics was split between U.S. government and politics and comparative government and politics. It is possible to take and pass a specialized AP exam with only a semester’s worth of teaching, if the courses are designed that way.
Some suggestions for semester or year-long courses include African History, Latin and South American History, Middle Eastern History, Asian History, Oceanic History, and classes on Indigenous cultures all over the world. These broad categories are just a starting point that allow teachers and students to dig in and really focus on the many sub-regions in these vast areas.
Offering these courses at the national level would hold students’ exposure to different cultures to a standard, rather than relying on small numbers of particularly passionate teachers across the country to individually create electives in these areas. Shoutout to my high school social studies teacher for offering Minority Issues, Contemporary Issues, and Comparative Religions. I took Minority Issues and Comparative Religions, and I learned a lot that wasn’t covered in my other history classes.
There’s another problem with offering exposure to the rest of the world through electives: credit.
UR and other universities have policies against giving credit for non-AP high school classes. So I got zero college credits for Comparative Religions.
Universities usually have a preference for AP courses, since the College Board is a distinguished organization. The opportunity to jumpstart their college career would be a further incentive for high school students to take anti-racist AP history classes.
The College Board is supposed to expand students’ minds, not limit their conception of the world to one where only European histories matter. Until the College Board fulfills their responsibility to provide anti-racist education, students will have to rely on passionate teachers, the internet, and college courses to learn about the rest of the world.