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Why Take AP World History?
Gloria Harrison, 6/5/2010

Gloria Harrison has taught online AP World History for eight years through PA Homeschoolers AP Online. She graduated from the Translators & Interpreters Institute in Portugal in 1969. Having traveled with her diplomat parents since the age of three, she went to school in a different country every three years on the average, thus immersing herself in the language, geography, culture, and history of those countries. She married a U.S. Navy serviceman, and continued her travels for the next 25 years. In all that time, they were stationed in the United States only once. She continued to take a great interest in the countries they lived in. She currently lives in southwest Pennsylvania with her two cats.

WHY TAKE AP WORLD HISTORY?

I've been teaching AP European History with PA Homeschoolers for the past nine years and AP World History for the past eight.  Yet I never cease to be surprised that I end up with about half the students in World History than with those in Euro.

In a way, that is an advantage both for me and for my students.  I have more time to spend one-on-one with the World History (generally known as WHAP) students, via email or message board discussion.

Still, why do so few students actually take AP World History?  Perhaps because their perception (and that of their parents) of it is inaccurate? 

Mom announces, "Peter, I've registered you for AP World History this year!"  "Aw, Mom, why did you do that?  We've been doing World History at home since you potty-trained me!"  "Well, you've already taken APUSH with darling Mrs. Richman, and AP EURO with that nice foreign lady, Mrs. Harrison, and you need a third social studies course for your high school diploma."  "But Mooom!... I know all about the Greeks and the Romans and that Russia is communist and that India has a caste system…"  "So much the better, this class ought to be a piece of cake for you!  Now stop being so pig-headed, I've already paid for the class!"

So, who is correct?  Neither of them!  Mom should not enroll her son just because "he needs another social studies class," and the young man is deluding himself by thinking that he "knows all about" World History.

No AP class is "a piece of cake," and WHAP is no exception.  It is not simply a question of memorizing dates and knowing that the Romans were great soldiers and had lots of slaves.  WHAP will teach you such things as the far-reaching consequence of basing your whole economy on slavery.  WHAP will teach you WHY the Roman economy was based on slavery.  You will also learn that those sailors at the oars of Roman triremes were almost certainly not slaves (with apologies to "Ben Hur") but free citizens.  You probably know that China has one of the oldest civilizations in the world, but do you know that it was not always unified?  Moreover, did you know that there were thriving Jewish communities in both China and India since before the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.?

History becomes far more alive and fascinating when we learn about it through the lives of famous individuals.  In WHAP, you will read about virtuous Sita of Hindu mythology, and about wicked Empress Wu in Chinese history.  You know all about Columbus, Balboa, and Ponce de Leon, but you will eagerly learn about other heroes such as San Martín, Bolivar, and O'Higgins — the 19th century libertadores of South America.

What were the Opium Wars?  And why was General Gordon known as "Gordon of Khartoum," as well as "Chinese Gordon?"  And would you be surprised to find out that Mohandas Gandhi first practiced his "peaceful resistance" tactics in South Africa and not in India?  Or that Ibn Battuta was a world traveler long before Marco Polo?

And that's not all!  In WHAP, we also learn about the influence of geography on history, about the significance of cultural norms such as women's foot-binding in China.  We compare religious beliefs which have had far-reaching consequences on art, literature, and architecture.  Even cookery has a place in world history, as we learn about the role of spices in promoting European exploration.

Naturally, you may decide to take AP World History merely because "it looks good on a transcript" and "colleges award credit for it."  And that's fine with me.

However, if you also take it because of your burning desire to learn and keep on learning, you will become a true "Renaissance" young man or woman.  You will be educated.  You will discover that world history is not about "dead people," but real people, heroes and villains and ordinary people of all nations and times, who still live on in our imaginations, through the religions they founded, the kingdoms they conquered, and their inventions and discoveries which have become household words. 


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