American Exceptionalism: Everything You Need to Know

American exceptionalism is a type of nationalism that is unique to the United States. This is based on the idea that the United States’ success and dominance in the international system is proof of its exceptionality. This has the effect of instilling national pride in the hearts of the citizens, and the primary agent for instilling the concept of American exceptionalism into students is the school. This belief that the United States has qualities that make it different, unique, and special has been ingrained into the country’s school system – right from elementary to high school and even beyond – all the way to college.

Supporters of American exceptionalism argue that the country is outstanding because it was established on a set of ideals. They say America was founded on defeating tyrants, or as put forward by Lincoln, was conceived in liberty, and founded on the basis of all men being created equal. But the reality is that America wasn’t founded on equality for all. Opponents of American exceptionalism say that the nation’s founding fathers took the responsibility upon themselves to dish out “selective freedom.” They say the country dictated a hierarchy on freedom, and that assumption of power and difference of race, class, and gender remain the primary cause of several issues plaguing modern society today.

According to the opponents of American exceptionalism, American ideals didn’t include equality for women. They had to fight for suffrage, but it was only in 1920 that they got the right to vote. American ideals neither included equality for the Native Americans nor Black people who’re fighting to this day to be recognized as equals. Though these people have been granted equal protection in name, the country is still miles away from universally accepting Black people, along with people of color, as equal. Though Americans love to picture themselves and their country as the world’s moral compass, they seldom acknowledge their own failures and shortcomings.

Proponents of American exceptionalism believe that taking a unilateralist or arrogant approach to world leadership isn’t the right way to make the country exceptional again. Even denying America’s international obligations won’t help. Instead, the country should take up its former role as a benevolent leader, whose international supremacy is legitimated by its verifiable commitment to spreading democracy, peace, and shared prosperity.

Though America has unique and redeeming qualities that need to be praised, teaching just them won’t be patriotism. Rather, it’ll be sheer ignorance if other aspects like the tremendous injustices that have occurred throughout American history are ignored.

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