Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day Special: hero and villain

The first maybe-annual look at old Columbus. But the winds have changed since I was in grade-school. A darker side of Columbus emerges in U.S. classrooms
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."
So was Patton. Sometimes bosses have to be "very, very mean, very bossy" or else things wouldn't get done. Like defeating the Nazis or putting down a mutiny while crossing the Atlantic 500+ years ago. But we're talking about kindergartners, right?
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.
"He was a bad guy"? I assume these are bright 9 and 10 year-olds that judged based on the law and not what some liberal text book had printed or influenced by Ms Crawford.

But all of this doesn't beat this guy:
"Every hero is somebody else's villain," said Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a scholar and author of several books related to Columbus, including "1492: The Year the World Began."

"Heroism and villainy are just two sides of the same coin."
That's true. Just ask any punk wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt.

*Full disclosure: I have some Choctaw blood in me. Not that it matters, but I won't cast stones at Columbus, when the real tragedy towards Native Americans started a couple centuries later.

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