America is freer and more democratic than any other nation, and for that reason, a model, vindicator, and at times the chief defender of ordered liberty and self-government in the world.Hmmm.
Here is a good example of the real debates about history that get mashed up in this sort of ideological struggle:
Offering an alternative, transnational history designed to combat American “unilateralism,” Bender says that Columbus and his successors didn’t discover America so much as they discovered “the ocean world,” a new global community united by the oceans. The oceans, in turn, made possible the slave trade and the birth of modern capitalism, which improved the lives of European, but brought exploitation and tragic injustice to the rest of the world. Bender concludes that early American history is only partially about “utopian dreams of opportunity or escape”. The beginnings of the American story, says Bender, are also deeply rooted in the birth of capitalism, and the “capture, constraint, and exploitation” this implies.To which I can only say, well, that's true. One might argue that "exploitative international capitalism" is a loaded phrase, but I am not sure on what basis anyone could deny that this account is substantially correct. Yes, lots of non-Europeans also benefited from global trade, from spice growers in Sri Lanka to African slave catchers -- but plenty of others were ruthlessly exploited. The establishment of Britain's colonies in America was not very much about the Pilgrims or Plymouth and had a lot to do with world trade and plantations worked by African slaves. The employment of African slaves in the Americas did make Europe richer. It was its mastery of global trade, much more than anything to do with the innate character of Europeans, that made Europe the center of the world in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In other words, Bender wants early American history to be less about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, and John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech, and more about the role of the plantation economy and the slave trade in the rise of an intrinsically exploitative international capitalism.
But that is certainly not the whole story. Thousands of Europeans did come to the New World seeking freedom. Massachusetts was not the whole story of America but it was part of it. America's revolutionary proclamation of freedom did resonate with many people around the world, for example Haitian slaves. The question one faces in designing a high school history textbook is what to include and what to leave out. I think the huge expansion of world trade, leading eventually to global capitalism, is important; I think the enslavement of millions of Africans is important; I think the plantation culture of the American South is important, including its connection to world trade. (Plantations pretty much by definition raised crops for export, and planters were big supporters of free trade.)
Some critics of American history as it is taught by liberal academics just hate to dwell on anything bad because it makes them feel criticized. Others want history taught in a way that more firmly unites the nation behind a shared vision; as Kurtz put it, "the old U.S. history forged a shared national identity by emphasizing America’s distinctiveness." As a political goal that may or may not be worthy, but as history it is crap. America has been badly disunited since its founding -- as the Indian Wars show, as the Civil War shows, as the battles over labor rights and equality for blacks show, as the battles over women's rights show, and as this argument over American history shows. America is unique only the sense that every nation is unique, and its history is neither uniquely good, nor uniquely bad, nor particularly unified. If you want to distort that history for political ends, ok, but at least be honest about what you are doing.