AP World History is one of the most popular courses offered by the US-based College Board. The AP World History exam was taken by 300,000 students last year. It is now a subject of growing controversy – and we urge you to join the campaign #SaveAPWorld – because the College Board has announced that the course will no longer start at 8,000 BCE, covering the whole of human history, but at 1450 CE. Yes, AP World will now include only 600 years of history. It’s like trimming a French course to irregular verbs.

A growing movement of teachers, scholars, and parents is responding angrily and eloquently.

Is it a coincidence that the College Board wants to teach only the world dominated by Europe? Or that the change will eliminate the pesky problem of those millennia before the Biblical creation round about 4,000 BCE?

I wonder.

Please join the campaign #SaveAPWorld by visiting the website Save AP World. Sign the petition and write to the College Board – all the contact information is at the website.

One of the explanations given by the College Board for cutting out most of the human past is directly relevant to our work at Berkshire Publishing. The College Board’s VP Trevor Roper say that the question about China before 1450 on the 2017 AP Exam was “the lowest scoring Short Answer Question ever, highlighting the fact that students are not adequately prepared for the exam.”

And, heck, why not? China doesn’t matter much any more, does it?

But, seriously, this seems to me evidence that students need to learn more, not less, about China before 1450. Teacher education has always been part of our mission at Berkshire Publishing, because today’s world history teachers often studied European history or US history. Teaching the world is a challenge, but this is our world and we need to understand the sweep of history as well as particular periods.

“We’ll show that the world really is round.”

William H. McNeill, at eighty-seven, talks about how he began to understand that history is not simply the story of western cultures and civilization. Recorded by Berkshire Publishing Group, this three-minute extract also features J.R. McNeill. Click here to watch.

That’s what Bill McNeill, the famous historian, the dean of world history, recipient of countless awards, said on his doorstep after we agreed that we, he and I, would create an Encyclopedia of World History.

I’m about to leave for the World History Association conference and will be opening a roundtable tomorrow in memory of Bill, who was a dear friend and guide. He died in 2016 at ninety-eight. Bill’s first big book was The Rise of the West but he was no defender of western civilization. In fact, he speaks eloquently in the video below about old-fashioned Western Civ (or new fashioned College Board AP World) as an “ethnocentric and naïve vision of the human past.”

Here’s something Bill McNeill wrote about China in world history: “China has always retained primacy in that part of the world thanks to the skills, the numbers, and the economic and political prowess of its population. As transport and communication improved over time, China’s influence reached ever more widely across Asia, and the Chinese continually enriched themselves by importing new skills, new knowledge, and new things from afar. Beginning about 100 BCE, with the opening of organized caravan trade along the so-called Silk Roads, this process of interaction began to affect western Asia and even distant Europe, creating an Old World web that eventually expanded around the globe after 1500, creating the tumultuous world we know today.” (From the second edition of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History.)

You’ll see a few Berkshire books below. They’ll take you back a bit further than 1450. This Fleeting World and Big History, Small World go all the way to the Big Bang. This Is China has my favorite subtitle: The First 5,000 Years. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, especially given the issues covered in our books on sustainability, but it always makes me smile. Jonathan Spence wrote, “It is hard to imagine that such a short book can cover such a vast span of time and space. This Is China: The First 5,000 Years will help teachers, students, and general readers alike, as they seek for a preliminary guide to the contexts and complexities of Chinese culture.”

This newsletter goes to people all over the world, and I hope I have conveyed how fundamental this Save AP World campaign is to us at Berkshire Publishing. Our mission is (and will remain!) to publish about our shared history, our shared values, and our common future. Please Join the campaign #SaveAPWorld by visiting the website Save AP World.