SHS and LGHS have an AP European History issue

April 1, 2022 — by Shaan Sridhar
Photo by Tara Natarajan
The current history curriculum values European history more than world history.
The high-achievement, Euro-centric course raises questions about curriculum diversity and student stress

At Los Gatos High, sophomores can take AP European History (AP Euro) in place of college-prep World History to satisfy the school’s graduation requirements. At Saratoga High, AP Euro is the only high-achievement international history course available, excluding AP Art History, an art analysis class. 

This means that LGHS students are allowed to forgo studying Asian, African and American history and solely focus on European history — a problematic approach in a diverse world. And for SHS students, the study of diverse history is relegated to college-prep World History which, while comprehensive, is far less intensive.

This year, 28 SHS students are taking AP Euro, and 41 students have enrolled in it for next year. Many LGHS students take the course in place of World History. In its current unbalanced form, the LGHS and SHS curriculums need serious revision.

 

LGHS: Replacing AP Euro with advanced World History

Imagine this: A recent LGHS graduate took AP Euro instead of World History. As a result, their historical knowledge of India is limited to colonization in India, ignoring the development of Buddhism and years of technological advancement in the 5th century B.C.E. This lack of knowledge will negatively affect that student’s worldview, an educational failure on behalf of LGHS.

If students take only AP Euro, their curriculum will only focus on Europe’s empires, wars and advancements — even though Asia, Africa and the Americas have important histories too. It is imperative that students first learn holistic world history before narrowing their focus on Euro-centric history later on in college (if they wish to).

AP Euro should be an extension of history, not the core high-achievement offering. Instead of AP Euro, LGHS should offer an advanced World History in its place. This can be AP World History — which already has a curriculum developed by the College Board — or even a World History Honors class, depending on how teachers wish to approach the class.

This course, like college-prep World History, would cover history from every continent, ensuring a balanced focus while also maintaining a high-achievement standard. If offered at LGHS, the school would continue the availability of a high-achievement international history course without sacrificing the integrity of the curriculum.

 

SHS: Offer advanced World History and allow it to satisfy graduation requirements

The reason for taking AP Euro at SHS is simple: It is the only high-achievement history course focused on international events, not just the U.S. 

At SHS, students are forced to take college-prep World History, which is a graduation requirement, even if they’re taking AP Euro as an elective. Students should not be forced to sacrifice an elective and take World History twice just because they have an interest in history and want to take an advanced course.

Like LGHS, SHS should offer an advanced World History class and make it satisfy sophomore history graduation requirements, allowing students to choose between college-prep and advanced World History.

But this solution poses an additional issue, as students may enroll in advanced World History over college-prep World History due to college and peer pressure: Should the school even offer a high-achievement alternative to World History? 

The answer is yes — and here’s why: At SHS, sophomores have the option of taking honors classes for their science and math graduation requirements, but not for English and history. Outside of AP US History, the history classes at SHS are generally regarded among humanities students as easy classes in their schedules, classes that don’t need to be taken as seriously as others. Students with a serious interest in history are left unfulfilled, without any option to increase the rigor of their class.

It is important that STEM and humanities students have equal access to challenging courses, warranting the inclusion of an AP history course in the sophomore year. Offering the choice between AP and college-prep World History would help balance this discrepancy. 

An obvious objection to this plan is that such a change would increase students’ workloads and stress. Many students at SHS take the AP or honors option of a course even if they aren’t particularly interested in the class, in an effort to boost their GPA. Additionally, such a change would require a large amount of work on part of our teachers, in order to develop a curriculum for a new advanced World History class.

A better way to address both of these concerns is to approach the class as the Media Arts Program (MAP) approaches advanced courses: keep college-prep and advanced students in the same classroom, while assigning those interested more rigorous work such as additional research to add rigor to the class.

This would lessen the pressure on students to take advanced classes as they would be able to be with their peers regardless of the class they take. In addition, teachers would not have to develop an entirely different course, as they would be integrating some advanced material into their pre-existing courses. 

 

SHS and LGHS are two of the highest ranked schools in California. Our schools, cities and state pride themselves on our progressive education and diverse ideals. If we want to maintain this standard of education and inclusivity, we should make the history curriculums at both schools reflect the larger world.

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