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Monday, October 11, 2004

Columbus Day

Given how many Americans Columbus killed, you have to wonder why we don't have Hirohito and Osama days as well.

From Lalo Alcarez. (Actually, I doubt if the people Columbus killed lived in teepees, but that's one of the best cartoons I've seen, even if it's more appropriate for 9/11 than Columbus Day.)

Professor Warren Goldstein explains why he loves Columbus Day:
The point is not to make students feel guilty, but rather to help them think about their history -- and their present -- in a different light. They ask about other heroes. They realize that the history they've learned might not be adequate for an adult (or a child, for that matter). Those training to be teachers vow not to let Columbus become simply an occasion for cut-out hats and pretty pictures of the Niņa, Pinta and Santa Maria.

Others worry about how to broach the subject in their families. "My father's from Italy," said one young man, "and there's no way I can tell him this. Just no way." To get this point across, and many want to, they have to think like teachers, which is never a bad exercise.

Months later I ask students to write down the most significant things they've learned in the course. Most come back to Columbus. It's rare that a teacher happens onto a single story that teaches so much, and engages students so thoroughly. I suspect the Knights of Columbus wouldn't approve, but I love Columbus Day.
If you're not familiar with the crimes of Christopher Columbus, here's a brief introduction.