Teachers present more balanced view of Columbus Day





TAMPA, Fla. – Jeffrey Kolowith's kindergarten students read a poem about Christopher Columbus, take a journey to the New World on three paper ships and place the explorer's picture on a timeline through history.

Kolowith's students learn about the explorer's significance — though they also come away with a more nuanced picture of Columbus than the noble discoverer often portrayed in pop culture and legend.

"I talk about the situation where he didn't even realize where he was," Kolowith said. "And we talked about how he was very, very mean, very bossy."

Columbus' stature in U.S. classrooms has declined somewhat through the years, and many districts will not observe his namesake holiday on Monday. Although lessons vary, many teachers are trying to present a more balanced perspective of what happened after Columbus reached the Caribbean and the suffering of indigenous populations...

... The federal holiday itself also is not universally recognized. Schools in Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and Seattle will be open; New York City, Washington and Chicago schools will be closed.

The day is an especially sensitive issue in places with larger native American populations.

"We have a very large Alaska native population, so just the whole Columbus being the founder of the United States, doesn't sit well with a lot of people, myself included," said Paul Prussing, deputy director of Alaska's Division of Teaching and Learning Support.

Many recall decades ago when there was scant mention of indigenous groups in discussions about Columbus. Kracht remembers a picture in one of his fifth-grade textbooks that showed Columbus wading to shore with a huge flag and cross.

"The indigenous population was kind of waiting expectantly, almost with smiles on their faces," Kracht said. "'I wonder what this guy is bringing us?' Well, he's bringing us smallpox, for one thing, and none of us are going to live very long."

Kracht said an emerging multiculturalism led more people to investigate the cruelties suffered by the Taino population in the 1960s and '70s, along with the 500th anniversary in 1992.



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Elizabeth Cregan - 10/13/2009

If you go back to school, you would most likely find that Columbus is taught as the founder of ourland, maybe not our country. It is taught in grades too young to really discuss in depth the discovery of of North America, and then it disappears completely from education untill maybe a quick note in HS. History is very tweaked, biased, and barely taught, if at all. Columbus day is maybe a day off for some people, and more likely a day to get an expensive item cheap during a sale


Robert Maguire - 10/13/2009

"We have a very large Alaska native population, so just the whole Columbus being the founder of the United States, doesn't sit well with a lot of people, myself included," said Paul Prussing, deputy director of Alaska's Division of Teaching and Learning Support."

What?!

Seems to me that M. Prussing needs to go back to school.

No wonder our youth is getting dumber by the second.

Do I need to say more?

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