Exploring Columbus: Omitting the Elipses

It's not a three-day weekend in October without a little debate about the namesake of the government holiday. There are usually several questions from various friends who are curious about how Columbus is taught in the classroom these days and, in recent years, "As a homeschooler, do you even teach about Columbus?" I believe that history education has come a long way since the 1990s, but it still seems really sugar-coated for my taste. And yes, I do address Columbus. Which is entirely different from celebrating him.

I've mentioned it many times before, like with Thanksgiving Without the Teepee, that I hope homeschooling will provide opportunities to do more than merely scratch the surface of different subjects. I love that we are not bound by a textbook account. We can dig deeper and follow a story, no matter where it takes us. The recently canonized Junipero Serra is one of those stories... that perhaps paints a picture of a man whose conversation efforts were more tyrannical than saintly. Maybe that's another post. Having said this, I must admit that I do something that I'm finding to be frowned upon in homeschool circles. I actually do use textbooks.

I find that textbooks at the elementary level, particularly science and social studies, often leave out a lot of valuable information. Curricula spirals, textbooks are heavy on developing spines, yadda yadda yadda. However, I like to think of them as an in-depth outline of all the topics we might further investigate. The historical account of Christopher Columbus arriving in North America is one of those topics. So, while our textbook offers entries from Columbus' ship log, it lacks the ellipses where the depravities were omitted. For a more authentic version of this piece of history I turn to Howard Zinn. He will set us straight.

  • The Biography Channel online streams the full episode of Christopher Columbus. It is a little dated, but I think it holds up.
  • A 2011 NPR segment "sets the record straight on some of the popular myths surrounding Columbus and his voyage."

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