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AP World History: Doing Too Much


If you projected the history of the Earth onto a 24-hour clock, the portion including mankind and all its achievements would be in the last 20 seconds of the 24th hour in the 59th minute. Alas, Earth’s history is not 24 hours long; it’s more than four and a half billion years old and modern-day humans have existed for over 200,000 years. We, the species known as Homo sapiens, have worked, toiled, fought, died, and strived for greatness since then, and along the way have done some truly remarkable things. To try and fit all of these accomplishments in a single year’s course, known as AP World History, is next to impossible. That inevitably takes meaning and understanding away from these accomplishments.

From the beginning of the assigned textbook, you can tell this is going to be one of, if not the most, dense and complicated things you have ever read. And it has to be. To understand the history of the world, you need to go back to the beginning and look at every aspect that has contributed to our modern society. The goal of AP World is to cover almost every one of them in less than a year.

By looking at each factor that influenced world history, we barely scratch the surface in any one specific topic in the history of the world. Sure when the course is done you might be able to analyze how ancient Greece’s trade techniques were prevalent in the age of colonization years later, but what good is that when the goal of looking at history is to learn from it and apply it to our modern day standard of living? To do this you need to delve deeper into the influential civilizations of ancient history instead of spending one 90-minute period discussing a few of the most important people in world history.

I think AP World History is a really great class, and is taught by some of the best teachers at Wilson, but it could be improved by making it a two-year course in which the first year focuses on early civilizations through the Middle Ages, and the following year is centered around the Age of Discovery and onwards.

The curriculum is set by College Board, Wilson teachers have no choice but to fit it all into a year’s worth of teaching, but an edit to the timeline of the curriculum could be changed by the organization.

This obviously isn’t a perfect solution and other variations could probably be even more effective, but it would help AP World students to get a better understanding of the world they live in and how it came to be.

“That was my least favorite history class,” junior Duncan Fitzgerald said, “because we didn’t study any specific civilizations or cultures in depth.” The class prepares you to pass the AP exam by feeding you facts and teaching you how to formulaically write an essay.

“We only go over a few things in this one year,” agreed sophomore Sam Alten. “Two years would give us more time to learn more things in more detail.”

This class should help us learn history and enjoy it, instead of feeding us a small amount of facts from every part of the history of the world.