Monday, September 6, 2010

Columbus discovered America: A culturally bias perspective

   Every year we recognize Christopher Columbus for discovering America. We're even off from school for "Columbus Day." But who really "discovered" America? What does it mean to "discover?" It becomes clear after reading Howard Zinn's "Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progess" that the idea Columbus discovered America is questionable.  Elementaty school textbooks portray Columbus as being a "good guy" because as a nation we don't want young children to be afraid of the violence and bloodshed, but we also don't want to signal the message that "bad people" get holidays named after them. But at at the expense of not telling children this, they are believing lies. Why not tell the history in a way that is not frightening to children ,but does not falsify the history in any way, like the teachers on pg207 suggest?

  The book  "Lies my teacher told me" by James W. Loewen explores the countless number of lies and cultural bias' of an American textbook. Loewen's makes a crucial point that "Many of the textbooks tell of Columbus's three later voyages, but most do not find the space to tell us how Columbus treated the the land and the people he discovered"  (pg 53)
   In addition to Columbus' story being culturally bias, there are so many more. Thomas Jefferson fathered a black child with a plantation slave (Sally Hemings). However, textbooks often fails to list the child Jefferson had the Hemings, probably, because she was partly black. Is it a coincidence that there is so frequently so little focus on minorities in textbooks, and that it's so rare to hear about flaws in American "heroes"?

 Perhaps racism in textbooks is born out of fear. Fear of losing land. Fear of losing a sense of superiority. Fear of admitting the truth. Columbus DID have the courage to explore the world, WAS first to have a written history of the new world, and did discover the new world for Europeans. However, leaving the Native Americans out of the prior history doesn't seem ethical. It almost seems racist because by saying Columbus "discovered" America (and nobody else was involved), you are asserting that Native Americans who were here first either weren't people, or were an inferior race.

1 comment:

A. Mattson said...

A good discussion. Your link does not work.

"Discovery" is a loaded term that is often criticized these days. There are many myths about Columbus and his voyages. And there are a lot of other famous history stories that have distorted the 'truth.'

We can learn from the way that history is written. The words chosen often tell us as much about the writer as they do about the topc being written about in the history book.