History is not about exceptionalism. It is about confronting the past to help inform the present. Individuals who only wish to espouse an exceptionalism narrative are ignoring a fundamental truth that must be shared: There are always victims as well as victors, and decisions have consequences.
History also is not simple or straightforward. To argue otherwise is not to fully understand it. The recent call by the Trump administration to counter what he called “the crusade against American history” by pushing “patriotic education” is an example of the oversimplification of our understanding of the past. As the late historian J.M. Roberts famously argued, “History is the story of mankind, of what it has done, suffered, and enjoyed.”
I have spent my career teaching introductory courses to university students in the history of the United States, Europe, Africa, and the world. Students often come to the classroom with a