History is written by the victor. They can tell us how nice they were (or at least how necessary their not-niceness was). But the fact those who win get to write history in their favor doesn’t negate the value of ensuring people have a more robust view of what actually transpired. The good and the bad. Which makes Trump’s idea of a more patriotic history quite frightening.
In software development, we have “retrospectives” — a meeting where everyone chats about how the last project went. What worked well. What didn’t work well. It’s not meant to be subversive, negative, or blamey — it’s meant to get people thinking about how we could improve the things that didn’t work well. And to feel proud about the things that did go well. I’d love to see this approach taken to teaching history.
By focusing only on the good aspects, you lose important information. A tangentially related example: my daughter’s social studies book attempts to cover the concept of savings and loans. They talked about saving money to buy something bigger later and about the bank giving you money to buy something bigger *now* and you you give the money back later. And omitted the entire concept of interest. Elementary schools are telling kids that the bank will give you a couple hundred k to buy a house, you pay them back over time, and it’s all beautiful. I pulled up my credit card statement and showed her how the grand we spent last month could be paid back immediately — the bank gave me a grand, I paid them a grand back, and they gave me 30$ in bonus cash back for using their service — but that’s not a sustainable business model. How does the bank pay for the building downtown? The people who work there? The advertising? The computer systems? I showed her the “if you pay the minimum” and “if you pay more than the minimum, look how much you ‘save'” box where that grand could cost me three grand. Or I could ‘save’ 1500 by paying more than the minimum due.