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

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.

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