We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

How US history is whitewashed in high school exams

5 186 0

This June, like so many over the past three decades, small armies of graduate students, high school teachers and college faculty descended upon US cities throughout flyover country to score four million Advanced Placement exams in 38 subjects. Or, in recent years, score exam essays and other components from a computer off site, likely at home or in an office.

The job of these readers is to help the College Board through the algorithmic powers of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to determine whether over one million US high school students will earn credits towards their college degrees.

Not so sadly, I was not among them this year. When it comes to a culture of inadvertent racism, my disappointment with scoring AP US and World History exams for the College Board and the ETS knows no bounds.

The testing bias is so strongly Anglo-American and Eurocentric that it lags behind what I taught in my US and World History college courses a quarter-century ago. The AP curriculum leaves many high school instructors ill-equipped to teach about historical nuances that would allow advanced high school students to make a comprehensive college-level history argument, especially on issues related to racism.

Many of the teachers who have scored these exams themselves have displayed their own racism over the years, as they did on t-shirts as part of an event sanctioned by the College Board and the ETS in 2014.

In June 2018, I and a large group of AP World History exam readers scored hundreds of thousands of short answer essays based on a passage from Rudolph Rummel's Death by Government (1994). "At the extremes of power, totalitarian governments slaughter their people," while "many democracies can barely...execute even serial murderers," reads part of the excerpt.

After this passage, there was a three-part short answer question. Part two of the question read: "Explain ONE historical example of a democratic state committing mass violence that would challenge Rummel's argument regarding democracies and mass violence."

Many of the 1,200 essays I scored online did not meet the........

© Al Jazeera