Concerns about an overhaul to the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum framework have been spreading through a growing number of states over the last few months, with critics saying it emphasizes negative aspects of the nation's history and downplays "American exceptionalism."
Policymakers in Colorado, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas have pushed back on the new framework, which .outlines the concepts and skills students need for a college-level history course. The Republican National Committee also condemned the guidelines last summer, calling them "radically revisionist."
In response, the College Board, the nonprofit New York City-based organization that administers the Advanced Placement program, says that the framework was written by history educators and historians, and that AP teachers widely support it. The group also emphasizes that it's only a framework—not a detailed curriculum—and that teachers should populate the course with more specific content.
Some of the earliest criticism of the new framework can be traced to retired AP U.S. History teacher Larry S. Krieger, who published several articles last spring attacking the guidelines. A piece he co-wrote last March for the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank in Chicago, states that the framework "inculcates a consistently negative view of the nation's past." Mr. Krieger points to the framework's treatment of Manifest Destiny as evidence of that negative slant: "Instead of a belief that America has a mission to spread democracy and new technologies across the continent," he writes, "the framework teaches the nation 'was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.' " (Mr. Krieger declined to be interviewed for this article.)
In August 2014, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution stating that the framework "deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events" and recommending that Congress withhold federal funding to the College Board pending a rewrite. The AP and International Baccalaureate programs receive about $28 million in federal funding combined.
Mr. Coleman, the College Board president, responded by releasing a full-length practice exam in AP U.S. History to the public, which the group had never done.
"We hope that the release of this exam will address the principled confusion that the new framework produced," he wrote in a letter. "The concerns are based on a significant misunderstanding."