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New York City
November 2003

AP Program: Using Global Languages to Advance Cultural Understanding
by Matilda Raffa Cuomo & Dr. Lee Jones

There is no doubt that the children of the 21st century are citizens of a global society. Almost all aspects of their lives—the economy, the environment they live in, the diverse array of individuals and cultures they will encounter every day—are shaped by the increased internationalization of their world. Yet, unfortunately, increased interdependence and interaction between nations and cultures has often led to tensions and conflict. To help make the global society of the 21st century one of peace and cooperation, rather than one of war and turmoil, many educators believe that our children in school today must develop a deep understanding and appreciation of the diverse cultures of the world. With such understanding comes tolerance and acceptance.

In 1995, Mentoring USA began its BRAVE (Bias-Related Anti-Violence Education) Initiative in New York City, established in response to an increase in violence and hate crimes involving high school students. BRAVE promotes better communication to raise awareness of our global community, and conflict resolution. In 2001, we renamed the initiative BRAVE Juliana, in memory of David McCourt’s 4 year-old daughter, Juliana, who was tragically lost with her mother, Ruth, on the United Airlines Flight on September 11. Thanks to David’s generous contribution each mentee receives books on ethnic heroes, and our mentors can attend multi-cultural workshops. BRAVE Juliana strives to foster tolerance rather than hostility in youth, ages 5-18, who are part of the Mentoring USA program, by encouraging compassion, understanding and respect for their own language and heritage and the language and culture of others.

The College Board recently took a bold step forward to advance the understanding and appreciation of world languages and cultures in secondary schools by launching an initiative to establish new Advanced Placement® (AP) courses and examinations in world languages and cultures. The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program allows students to pursue college-level studies while they are still in high school. Based on their performance on AP Examinations, students can earn college credit, advanced placement, or both.

Gaston Caperton, President of the College Board, in announcing the new AP World Language and Culture initiative, said, “World events make it ever more obvious that a broad knowledge and understanding of other languages and cultures is essential for our young people.” As a first step in launching this initiative, last June the Trustees of the College Board approved in principle a plan for four new AP courses and examinations in World Languages and Cultures: Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. The Trustees also agreed to evaluate support for potential new AP offerings in other fields of history and ethnic or cultural studies, such as African-American History, Latino Studies, and Asian Studies, and in other world languages, including Arabic. The AP Program currently features language courses in Spanish, French, and German.

The first college-level AP Italian courses will be offered in U.S. high schools in the fall of 2005, followed by the first exam in May of 2006. Schools that are interested in the AP Italian course and exam, as well as professional development opportunities, should send an e-mail to apitalian@collegeboard.org including name, school affiliation, mailing address, and e-mail address.

In September, President Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, joined Gaston Caperton of the College Board to announce the new world language initiative, especially the first Advanced Placement Program for the Italian Language, at the Italian Consulate in New York. The hard work, enthusiasm, broad-based commitment, and support of Minister Mirko Tremaglia of the Italian government, together with the three national Italian American organizations are indicative of the effort that will be required to make the College Board’s World Language and Culture initiative a successful endeavor to prepare America’s students for their roles in an increasingly global society.#

Matilda Raffa Cuomo is the former First Lady of the City of New York. She is Founder and Chair, Mentoring USA and Chair, National Committee for Advanced Placement Italian Language Course & Examination. Dr. Lee Jones is Vice President of The College Board.


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