If you learned your European history in an Advanced Placement European history class, you would have no idea why the United Kingdom just voted to be independent from the European Union. As I learned when I wrote the National Association of Scholars’ new report “The Disappearing Continent,” that’s because those classes are now taught according to the College Board’s Advanced Placement European History Course and Exam Description (APEH). It’s a history of Europe from the view of the bureaucrats in Brussels whom the British people just tossed on their ears.
APEH never tells students about Britain’s history of liberty. It describes Parliament as an instrument of elite domination, not as the forge of freedom.
APEH scarcely tells students about how Britain invented the justification of the free market with Adam Smith, put it into practice with Victorian free trade that enriched the world, or under Margaret Thatcher freed it from the dead hand of the welfare state.
We Don’t Need No Stinking Knowledge
APEH never tells students Britain is exceptional, different from the other countries of Europe, and has been for a thousand years and more. They don’t know how Alfred the Great saved Wessex from the Danes, the Magna Carta established the seeds of liberty, or Englishmen chopped off the head of Charles I to prove they were free men.
APEH never tells students about the heroes of British liberty. It doesn’t tell them how John Milton argued that the press should be free, since God had given every human being the ability to discern the truth. It doesn’t tell them about William Wilberforce, whose faith in God inspired him as he brought about the abolition of the slave trade.
It doesn’t tell them about Winston Churchill, who rallied Britain to stand against the Nazi conquest of Europe. “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties,” Churchill told his countrymen, “and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” APEH never tells students about that finest hour.
APEH never tells students anyone might object to the European Union’s “challenges to national sovereignty.” It never tells students that the euro has wreaked misery across southern Europe, that the European Parliament is an undemocratic motley of authoritarian hacks, that unelected bureaucrats in Brussels have been grinding at freedom with an endless stream of administrative codes, or that free movement across European borders includes the uncontrolled movement of welfare scroungers, refugees, and terrorists.
APEH never tells students Britons are proud of their history of liberty and their independence. It never tells students Britons might look at their past and take from it the lesson that they should seek their own independent course once more, in defense of Britain’s liberty. APEH never hints to students that we might have cause to cheer them on.
Secular Welfare States: Mmm, Mmm, Good!
There’s a great deal else that the College Board doesn’t tell students about European history, from Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America to the Soviet genocide of the Ukrainians. The College Board’s version of European history doesn’t have much room for faith or freedom, and it doesn’t have much room for just how different the nations of Europe are from one another.
It doesn’t say to American students that Europe’s heritage of liberty is our birthright, and that the most important reason we should care about Europe’s history is because it will help us learn about our own liberty, why it matters, and how we can fight to preserve it. All it says is that Europe is a place where secularism happened and a welfare state came about—and never hints that anything else could ever have happened, in Europe or anywhere in the world.
Britain’s vote to leave the European Union would be unimaginable to a student who took the College Board’s AP European History examination. So are an awful lot of other headlines in the news. The religious roots of jihadi terror in Paris? Not in APEH. The brutal Soviet subjugation of Eastern Europe, which explains the alarm Putin’s neighbors feel as Russia rattles its sabers? Scarcely mentioned. The College Board is educating a generation of American citizens to be bone-ignorant about what’s happening in Europe, and what might happen next. Some of these citizens will be in charge of our foreign policy in a little time, and then America will be flying blind. The consequences of their ignorance of European history could be catastrophic.
The College Board needs to revise its AP European history examination to teach America’s students properly. It would be even better if Americans created more testing companies, so our schools could have an alternative to the College Board’s monopoly. History should help us cherish our liberty, and other people’s, and it should help us know what’s going on in the world. Britain’s jailbreak from the European Union’s prison-house of nations illustrates just how badly the College Board’s European history examination does at both these jobs.