Study: AP exam ‘warps and guts’ European history to serve ‘progressive agenda’

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( — The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has published a study arguing that the College Board’s Advanced Placement European History exam (APEH) “warps and guts the history of Europe to make it serve today’s progressive agenda.”

“It [APEH] mentions neither Christopher Columbus nor Winston Churchill,” a NAS press release points out.

“APEH’s distortions turn Europe’s extraordinary history and unique contribution to the formation of our world into a generic narrative of modernization,” says NAS director of communications David Randall, who authored the study entitled The Disappearing Continent: A Critique of the Revised Advanced Placement European History Examination.

“We do not criticize all of APEH because significant amounts of APEH are solid work,” Randall noted.

“But far from all. APEH turns Europe’s history into a foreshortened, neo-Marxist, generic narrative of historical modernization, powered by abstract social and economic forces, and defines modernization around secularism, the state, and a thin supportive intellectual history,” he added.

The study outlines eight ways that the AP exam and accompanying materials fall short of an accurate portrayal of European history, including presenting “the history of government rather than of liberty” and “ignoring Europe’s unique development of the architecture of modern knowledge, which made possible almost every modern form of intellectual inquiry.”

The study’s eight recommendations include urging the College Board to “be especially diligent to ensure that its choice of vocabulary and silent omissions do not present a one-sided interpretation of Europe’s history.”

The NAS study criticizes APEH’s treatment of religion, saying its “secularized modernization narrative gives pride of place to economic causation and short shrift to the religious and cultural mainsprings of historical change. In consequence, it also edits out the religious diversity of Europe.”

“APEH also nearly eliminates Islam, Orthodoxy, and Judaism, because their very existence complicates and compromises APEH’s simple narrative of secular modernization,” the study says.

“APEH’s removal of Islam may also be motivated by modern progressives’ reluctance to mention modern Islamist terror, much less to confront its deep roots in Islam’s millennial tradition of jihad. Certainly Islam’s disappearance is the most dramatic of the three, because the portions of Europe under Islamic rule disappear as well,” Randall pointed out.

He also sees the exam as falling short in the political realm: “APEH barely mentions civil society, liberty, or freedom,”Randall  pointed out.

“APEH asks students to ‘Explain the emergence of representative government as an alternative to absolutism’ but not to explain it on its own terms, as something of positive value,” the study continues. “APEH’s approach to political theory and practice makes liberty secondary at best,” leading to “a parallel excision of British history, since so much of Britain’s history is the history of liberty.”

“APEH also minimizes the revolutionary violence of the Socialist tradition and the evil of the Soviet regime,” continues Randall, euphemizing the forced transfer of wealth as “fair distribution” and using the term “forced large-scale migrations” to “glide over the Soviet ethnic cleansing of millions of Germans and Poles.”

“Its most remarkable minimizations are its use of Stalin’s own euphemistic phrase, ‘liquidation of the kulaks,’ to refer to the arrest, deportation, and murder of millions of peasants, the parallel use of the phrase ‘purges of political rivals’ to refer to the Great Terror, the concealment of the genocide of the Ukrainians under the rubric of ‘famine in the Ukraine,’ and the justification of these horrors with the traditional Communist excuse that ‘Stalin’s economic modernization of the Soviet Union came at a high price’,” the study says.

APEH also “flattens nineteenth-century feminism into a mere search ‘for legal, economic, and political rights for women as well as improved working conditions’,” it noted.

Furthermore, “APEH translates transcendent as just like us, which makes its rationale for studying history present-minded and incurious …  APEH presents history as a commonplace book designed to reinforce our preconceptions.”

“No document such as APEH can cover every topic—but APEH disembowels Europe’s history,” the study concludes.

“Americans should restore variety, choice, and accountability to secondary education in America by developing one or more competitive alternatives to the College Board’s AP testing program,” Randall suggested.

However, the College Board defended APEH.

“Development of the AP European History curriculum framework was a rigorous five-year process to ensure quality, objectivity, and alignment to requirements for college credit,” the College Board told in a statement.

“Since its release in 2013, the course has received consistently positive feedback from AP teachers, students, historians, and the higher education community. The AP Program welcomes any additional feedback on AP European History and will take it into consideration.”

— Written by Rachel Hoover