The Disappearing Continent: A Critique of the Revised AP European History Examination

Jun 14, 2016 |  David Randall

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The Disappearing Continent: A Critique of the Revised AP European History Examination

Jun 14, 2016 | 

David Randall

Editor’s Note: What follows is the digital publication of an important new NAS study: a critique of the College Board’s new Advanced Placement European history standards. Two years ago NAS’s critique of the College Board’s dramatically revised U.S. History Standards touched off a national debate. That debate led the College Board in 2015 to revise those standards again. NAS’s critique also prompted a movement to develop a competing set of standards and tests to provide American schools an alternative to the College Board’s monopoly.

What the College Board did to American history it has now done to European history: erase and contort. Much of the European past goes missing in the new AP European History Course and Exam Description, as it is officially called.  Columbus is absent, and Churchill is reduced to a single prompt. The College Board tells the story of European history as the triumph of secular progressivism, and shunts to the margins the continent’s centuries-long rise to political freedom and prosperity.  

In his 12,200-word essay, The Disappearing Continent, NAS Director of Communications David Randall (Ph.D., History, Rutgers University, 2005; specializing in early modern European history) traces the pattern of exclusions and inclusions in these standards, which are already shaping high school curricula across the country. The Disappearing Continent is the first extended examination of the College Board’s European history initiative. We hope to inspire others to join us in the effort to challenge the new standards—to improve them if possible and to replace them if necessary.

David Randall is director of communications at the National Association of Scholars. He writes on early modern European history and has taught European history survey courses.

Glen W Spielbauer

| June 14, 2016 - 7:40 PM

It is sad that Churchill was “reduced to a
single prompt”  -  Have the History
Standards been so watered - down ?
European history (at both the high school
and college level) should include :
The Byzantine period
The Romans in Britain and Gaul (France)
Charlemagne, The Plantagenet kings, The Tudors
Wars of the Roses and Hundred Years War
The Reformation
World Wars I and II
Fall of the Soviet Union and Reunification
of Germany -
European history is so rich - the standards
must be maintained - Students must know how
European history shaped the world of Today -
in Europe and America.

Marcus Pohlmann

| July 05, 2016 - 7:47 PM

What gets lost in this discussion is that the only thing that really matters is what college Departments of History want their students to know in order to give them Advanced Placement credit. Teaching anything other than that shortchanges the students. It has nothing to do with what politicians, interest groups or even parents want these courses to cover.

Michael R Needle

| September 03, 2016 - 6:45 PM

Read Randall’s report.  Seems to me that both sides (assuming there are only two) are wrong.

John Beahrs

| January 11, 2017 - 1:05 PM

Concur. Personal identity requires MEMORY of one’s historical narrative.  Social identity requires HISTORICAL MEMORY of who we are, and where we come from—including our triumphs as well as our tragedies and shortcomings.  Failure to teach history is to knowingly commit cultural suicide.  I applaud NAS’s standing up against that trend.