What Should Kids be Taught about Christopher Columbus?

Christopher Columbus discovered America. That’s what we’re taught in school. My teachers didn’t go into details about how he enslaved Africans, natives of the West Indies, and forced non-Christians to convert to Christianity (among other horrific things).

What Should Kids be Taught about Christopher Columbus

The Truth About Christopher Columbus

I realized that lessons about the explorer is still very much the same when our 4-year-old son came home from school with his Christopher Columbus artwork. The moment sparked a history lesson about the real story behind Columbus.

I told our kids about how poorly he treated our forefathers. I also explained how he captured thousands of Taino Indians, who were original inhabitants of the Caribbean. He brought them to Spain and other parts of the world as slaves. He also enslaved Africans and took them to the Americas.

I was extremely careful about my choice of words. I kept the conversation age appropriate, while making valid points. It’s unfortunate that our country still celebrates a man who has done nothing but torture our ancestors.

There are some who believe that children don’t need to know the truth. One family member in particular became upset about my chat with the kids. She believed that they can learn the truth when they get older. So, “it’s okay to keep them in the dark now?” 

Let’s face it; times are changing. Kids should know the real history and not some watered down version of it. I can’t help but cringe at the thought that teachers feel it’s okay to have students doing artwork honoring a man who was extremely violent toward innocent people.

Christopher Columbus Debate

Columbus Day has been celebrated since 1971 as a federal holiday. However, now there’s an ongoing countrywide debate on whether or not we should continue to honor his legacy.

The L.A. Times reported that vandals have taken matters into their own hands by destroying Columbus statues. Politicians are debating whether or not to honor the Italian explorer’s past as a national hero. Some have taken action by ending the Columbus holiday all together.

Following Seattle, Albuquerque and Denver, The Los Angeles City Council voted to replace Columbus Day holiday with “Indigenous People’s Day.”

As you imagine, not everyone feels that we should put an end to the holiday. In fact, some say this could cause animosity. Meanwhile, there are still folks who continue to put him on a pedestal.

We certainly don’t want a repeat of the White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that ended in deadly violence over the removal of Confederate monuments across the South.

In the meantime, when it comes to what our children are being taught in school, the best approach is to refrain from doing artwork and other lessons that paint him in a positive light.

Teachers should talk about the ongoing debate over Columbus with older students, so they are aware about what’s going in the world. Keeping them oblivious only perpetuates the continued ignorance of what this man really stood for.

As for my son, he instinctively got up and threw away his Christopher Columbus artwork on his own.

I also followed up by writing a note to his teacher and expressed my thoughts and the best course of action moving forward.

I explained to our kids that’s it’s okay to refuse to honor Columbus in school. If the teacher takes issue, she can call me to further discuss their lack of participation.

It would be hypocritical of me to blog and complain about this without taking action. As the saying goes, if you don’t say something, you’ll fall for anything.

How do you feel about Christopher Columbus being honored in schools?