October 10, 2009

Schools put Columbus on trial

A darker side of Columbus emerges in U.S. classrooms

Columbus’ stature in U.S. classrooms has declined somewhat through the years, and many districts will not observe his namesake holiday 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.

By Christine Armario
“The whole terminology has changed,” said James Kracht, executive associate dean for academic affairs in the Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development. “You don’t hear people using the world ’discovery’ anymore like they used to. ’Columbus discovers America.’ Because how could he discover America if there were already people living here?”

In Texas, students start learning in the fifth grade about the “Columbian Exchange”—which consisted not only of gold, crops and goods shipped back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, but diseases carried by settlers that decimated native populations.

In McDonald, Pa., 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, fourth-grade students at Fort Cherry Elementary put Columbus on trial this year—charging him with misrepresenting the Spanish crown and thievery. They found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.

“In their own verbiage, he was a bad guy,” teacher Laurie Crawford said.
Comment:  The vote in the Fort Cherry class was 9-3 against Columbus. As usual, children understand what adults often do not.

For more on the subject, see Rough Seas for Columbus Day and Brown:  Good-Bye Columbus Day.

Below:  "In this Oct. 9, 2009 photo, Kindergarten students Kaileen Barreto, left, and Shayonna Bridgeman load supplies into a paper replicas of the ships Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria during a lesson about the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World at Philip Shore School of the Arts in Tampa, Fla."

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