Happy Christopher Columbus day!
When I was a kid, Christopher Columbus was a hero. The famous mariner was heralded for discovering the New World. We were taught Columbus was a poor child with a passion for the sea who spent his youth studying geography and navigation. When he became an adult, he was adamant in his belief that the earth was spherical, not flat, like most of his contemporaries believed. He was ridiculed, but he stood firm. Admirable qualities, we felt.
As kids, we loved Christopher Columbus. We drew pictures of his ships—The Nina, The Pinta, The Santa Maria. We reenacted his meeting with the Native Americans for school plays. But most importantly, in early October we got a day off to celebrate him. What could be better? There would be parades in town and no homework.
Columbus Day was created as a federal holiday in 1968. When Columbus Day started, 38 of the 50 states already observed it.
But now, nearly half a century later, the day that was celebrated to honor Columbus as well as to honor all of America's people—immigrants who had set sail for a new world — seems to be nearly forgotten.
Today, my kids don't get excited about Columbus day. Why should they? They don't have the day off. I asked. They weren't able to even name his ships.
And last night, my seven-year-old watched a video about Columbus on Brain Pop jr, an application on her school iPad that was recommended by her teacher. Brain Pop jr, claims to provide animated educational content for grades kindergarten to third.
I was in the room and happened to overhear. Annie, the little cartoon girl on the video, said, "Columbus claimed the land as part of Spain." There was a pause, as if my daughter had somehow chimed in. Then Annie continued in an incredulous tone, as if responding to someone:
"I know! There are already native people living there and it's not right to take something that doesn't belong to you. But that's what most explorers did in those days."
What? And who asked the folks at Brain Pop jr. for their editorial opinion? I see this world-view seepage all the time at their school - especially in this election year. I want my kids to be educated - not indoctrinated in somebody's else's ideology. Just give them the facts and let them draw their own conclusions.
Christopher Columbus was neither a conquistador nor a slaver. He was an explorer/business man doing what business men do - looking for a way to get the goods faster and cheaper. To put his flag-planting in a 21st century context just doesn't make sense. And it just shouldn't be done by people or apps that are supposed to be teaching.
He was courageous, he was farsighted and he was tenacious - all admirable qualities - In 1492 and 2012. No amount of revisionist history alters those facts.
Got it, flat-earthers?