Columbus Day has fallen out of fashion, reports AP. Some schools will be open today. Others are teaching lessons that emphasize a darker side of Columbus. He didn’t “discover” America because the natives got there first. And the Europeans’ arrival turned out very badly for the native peoples.
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.
I went to elementary school in the benighted ’50s, but we knew that Columbus had “discovered” for Europe a world that had been discovered previously. We knew he was so lost he named the place the “West Indies.” And we knew that most of the natives had died from diseases for which they had no immunity. We also honored his courage.
Update: Columbus, Ohio no longer holds a Columbus Day parade, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Jay Greene has an interesting take on indigenous peoples and land theft.