The College Board has revised its Advanced Placement European History (APEH) standards in response to criticism by the National Association of Scholars (NAS).
A year ago the National Association of Scholars published The Disappearing Continent (2016), which criticized the College Board’s Advanced Placement European History Course and Exam Description (2015) for editing the history of Europe to make it serve today’s progressive agenda. APEH is a college-level course for American high school students and is the last course in European history that many of them ever take.
NAS argued that APEH distorted or ignored whole categories of European history, including:
- the history of political liberty;
- the history of free-market economic liberty;
- the history of religion;
- the history of Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims;
- any intellectual history outside secular modernization;
- the history of Europe’s unique development of modern knowledge;
- and the history of Britain.
APEH also downplayed the evils of Communism and the brutal destructiveness of Soviet rule.
The College Board’s updated AP European History Course and Exam Description for 2017 now incorporates much of NAS’s critique. NAS evaluates these changes in Churchill In, Columbus Still Out: A Half-Loaf from the College Board, released today. According to NAS, although the revised APEH is noticeably improved, the College Board preserved its commitment to an ideologically biased version of European history straightjacketed by progressive dogma.
The improvements include:
- New Theme on Nations. The College Board added a sixth theme, on National and European Identity, which put nations and national cultures in the center of the APEH examination.
- More on Religion. The College Board made substantial numbers of smaller revisions that give greater prominence to religion. These revisions include a new Sub-Concept on the Weber Thesis linking Protestantism and Calvinism and a new Sub-Concept on eighteenth century religious revival.
- Less Bias against Free Markets. The College Board made smaller but still significant improvements to its treatment of free markets. The College Board rarely treats free markets positively, but it removed much tendentious language slanting historical analysis in favor of government intervention.
- Truer Picture of the Soviet Union. The College Board significantly modified its treatment of the Soviet Union, and gives a more accurate depiction of its horrific character.
- More on Britain. The College Board made no structural changes to re-orient its standards around British history, but it now illustrates its narrative with a larger number of British individuals and events.
- Additional Emphasis on Religious Diversity. The College Board made small improvements to restore Islam, Judaism, and Orthodox Christianity to its outline of European history, although the religious diversity of European history is still largely invisible.
- Other Small Changes. The College Board made many other small changes, to tighten language, reduce hostility toward conservatives, delete bias toward secular modernity, reduce hostility toward Europe, and emphasize praiseworthy elements of European history.
Yet a great deal of the APEH standards remain unchanged. The unchanged material includes:
- No Liberty. Above all, the College Board failed to include liberty. The words liberty and freedom are still almost absent from its standards, and there is no sense that the struggle for liberty is a central thread of European history.
- No Economic Freedom. The College Board failed to include economic liberty. The revised standards still avoid a straightforward discussion of the principles, institutions, and benefits of economic liberty.
- No History of Modern Knowledge. The College Board failed to incorporate the history of Europe’s unique development of the architecture of modern knowledge—from astronomy to geology in the natural sciences, and from art history to sociology in the humanities and social sciences.
- No Acknowledgment of Soviet Genocide. The College Board’s description of Soviet history still pulls its punches by failing to state explicitly that the regime committed starvation-genocide of the Ukrainians, and smaller genocides and ethnic cleansings of nations including Balts, Tatars, and Poles.
- No Columbus. The College Board failed to shift from an emphasis on the inevitabilities of social and economic history to an emphasis on contingency and individual endeavor. Strange absences therefore persist, such as the names of individual explorers such as Christopher Columbus.
- No Reason to Learn Europe’s History. The College Board failed to argue that European history is exceptional, important, or interesting in itself, failed to give a reason why students should study Europe’s history in particular, and failed to mention that Americans should study Europe’s past because it is our history.
- Secular Modernization Is Still the Story. The College Board failed to remove its overall narrative of secular modernization.
Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, said, “The improvements the College Board made are ultimately superficial and do not change the overall focus of the guidelines. The National Association of Scholars commends the College Board for taking our criticisms seriously and making noticeable changes to its standards. Yet even if the College Board followed through on these changed standards with the necessary accompanying changes to text books, teacher preparation, and ancillary materials prepared by independent organizations, the limited nature of the changes demonstrates that the College Board is incapable of reforming itself sufficiently.”