From the time American children begin school they are taught and tested an array of facts on George Washington, but few are able to identify any African tribes. It’s a simple fact that American students tend to less knowledgeable on the non-western affairs of the world.
This is justifiable in some ways. Students often learn more and will have more knowledge on their own country’s history compared to another country simply because it is more crucial for them as they live in that country and will eventually become functioning citizens there. Also, the geographical region of the country will also affect what history the students are taught. It is common knowledge that America has a long and complicated history with England that is crucial to the creation of America. The same cannot be said for a country like Thailand.
This does not negate the need for a complete worldview. In an age where communication has been made simpler than ever before and connecting with the other side of the world can be done with fingertips; it is important to be a global citizen. To understand the inner-workings of worldwide culture and to be able to participate in it means that current students must educate themselves on the history of all nations.
While there are many history classes available for students to expose themselves and increase their knowledge, there is only a small selection to choose from that don’t revolve around the U.S.. This is especially true for AP classes. As of right now, the only AP history classes to moderately focus on non-western culture and history is AP Art History (done through the discussion of art) and AP World History which is based not strictly on a specific region but encompasses the entire world since civilization began. However, there are whole AP courses devoted specifically to Western history such as AP U.S. History and AP European History.
“We definitely get a western-civilized viewpoint. A very isolated viewpoint at that,” said AP Euro and APUSH teacher Jennifer Ordetx.
The Florida Dehpartment of Education is responsible for deciding the courses available to students including elective social studies courses. Advanced Placement courses are decided by College Board on a national basis, based on their own set of requirements.
Another thing to take into consideration is the fact that in order for a school to be able to offer a specific elective, a teacher who is willing to teach it and enough student interest to warrant the class is needed. Without these things there is no reason for a school to offer an elective that no one is going to take.
“It has to be approved through the state and if the class hasn’t been created by the state with an actual state number and the state curriculum, then the school can’t have it as an elective. So it has to be initiated through the state and usually you can do that by appealing to the curriculum board,” said Ordetx.
College Board should consider creating more diverse AP history courses to allow students more choices to further develop knowledge the world and its history from all perspectives. Even if these classes would be considered electives, the option should be open for students. Florida curriculum creators have been more conscientious in developing a variety of specialized social studies electives such as African American studies or the history of the Holocaust. However, these courses are not offered on higher levels and are only half semesters.
But the possibility of new potential AP course specializing in Asian, African, Latin American, or Middle Eastern history is limited. AP courses are generally only offered based off of graduation requirements that the student must fulfill. Any of these new courses would most likely be electives and the odds of many students showing enough interest to warrant open discussion on creating these classes are slim.
“Graduation requirements supersede everything else. [Students] have to have World History, American History, Economics, and government courses, so I think those were naturally the places where we saw College board would develop AP classes. To give other options would mean [students] would have to take additional courses in social studies,” said social studies department head Kelly Miliziano.
Perhaps as the world becomes more globalized and students begin to see the value in learning and understanding all cultures of the world, they will emphasis be placed on the diversity of classes.
Lauren Johnston // Backpage Editor and Business Manager