Crayons. Cooties. Knee scrapes. This was the life of elementary schoolers. We came to class and our teachers amazed our minds with a new subject each day.
Subtraction, addition, growing class plants and fighting for the most gold stars filled the majority of our day. We looked up to our teachers for guiding us with the knowledge we have today, but there is one particular subject that has haunted us: Christopher Columbus. We learned he was a great man who discovered America and loved the Indians, but then later on we discover he infiltrated America, raped the indigenous peoples and brought disease. As young children, we never thought about why there were so little Native Americans in America, but now we know they are nearly wiped out due to the man this country worships.
Looking back at it, I am disgusted by the love and admiration for him, and I am horrified I was sitting there making paper boats and sailor hats wishing I had done something as great as Christopher Columbus did. In the textbooks in elementary schools, I remember seeing pictures of Columbus with Native Americans, helping them and sharing food. I saw Pocahontas and thought the English settlers were amazing, but then it was all shattered when my 8th grade U.S History teacher Ms. Nelson explained the question that was plaguing my mind for years: “Where are the Native Americans?”
Now, I am not surprised that we celebrate the colonization of indigenous people that just wanted to live peacefully in a community. After Columbus’s genocide, there were other major, similar events: slavery and the Holocaust. But do we celebrate the beginning of slavery or Hitler’s Birthday? I am not saying we should tell young children Christopher Columbus raped women and killed children, but with a deep and historic topic like the coming of the English settlers it is beyond a week-long lesson of making boats and watching Pocahontas. You need to put on those historian goggles and seriously interpret what was actually going on. I believe educators should skip that topic altogether and let 8th grade teachers take over from there because no kid should be in class praising a man who destroyed a civilization and gave them no chance.