History wars frequently turn on the issue of patriotism. However, arguments over history can easily be misrepresented and oversimplified as pitting unpatriotic historians against patriotic citizens. For some Americans, history that dwells on unsavory or even horrific episodes in our past is unpatriotic and likely to alienate young students from their own country. “Grim and gloomy” history is seen as undermining the national goal to educate loyal, proud Americans rather than pessimists and cynics.
On the other side of the issue are those who believe that exposing students to grim chapters of our past is essential to the creation of informed, responsible citizens. Historians are not trying to trash American when they examine and analyze the brutality of slavery, the genocidal displacement of indigenous people, the exploitation of child labor, the frailty of national leaders, or contradictions between lofty political principles and shabby practices. Most historians are reformers by nature, and they critique the past in order to improve American society and to protect dearly won gains.
Gary Nash, et. al, History on Trial, 15.