Changing Perceptions: A Fifth Grade History Lesson Revisited

As a child, days when you didn’t have school were seen as a gift. You memorized all the holidays so you would know what day you can wake up and just watch cartoons. Columbus Day was one of these days; actually, it was one of my favorites. After all, after being in school for at least a month straight the break was much appreciated. I remember learning of how Christopher Columbus faced all these hardships in order to prove that the world was not flat. He seemed like a very innovative and inspiring guy. Also, we learned how he “HELPED” the native peoples. Who doesn’t want to look up to someone who proved everyone else wrong by trusting his instincts?Christopher Columbus was one person who was drilled into my little head as being a great person who helped to shape our world for the better. This all changed one day in fifth grade.

We had a substitute named Ms. Brown who had been with the class for a while. Of course, I looked up to her because not only was she very beautiful but she was very very smart, a different class of substitute teacher than those I normally had. One afternoon the class was talking with her, asking her questions about being a grown up and somehow Christopher Columbus came up. She told us that Mr. Columbus was not such a nice man. She broke it to us gently but informed us that Christopher and his men actually killed and hurt (raped) the indigenous people.

Well my perceptions of Christopher Columbus were changed from that day. Although I could not fully comprehend what she was telling us at the time, as I got older I learned more about how Christopher Columbus changed the balance of the world and the many lies that were told to me as a kid. First of all, you can’t discover somewhere that already has people living there (common sense), but I guess to the Western world he practically discovered them considering that they viewed the Amerindians as savages. Secondly, why don’t our schools just tell us the truth behind Mr. Colón? Honestly speaking, hearing of how he treated the Taínos makes me wonder what kind of person he would be if alive today. I think our society places too much emphasis on the wrong people. Yes, he INTRODUCED Europe to the Americas and laid the groundwork to begin colonies for Europe (although wrongfully). But he has not contributed to society in a way that should be idolized. Seeing a statue of him in the colonial zone in Santo Domingo actually made me upset just to what he represents. Colombus to me has now become the embodiment of the racism, imperialism, and euro-centrism that continue to plague the Americas today. I come from an urban community and I feel that this idea of Columbus as a great man is not good. I really feel our schools, especially those from urban areas, should educate the students early on about who Columbus really was. They should tell the whole story not just the part that sounds good. It is up to us to inform our children and younger siblings the truth about Christopher Columbus because as of right now it is obvious no one else will. Well until next time

Peace and Love,

Khemani

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2 thoughts on “Changing Perceptions: A Fifth Grade History Lesson Revisited

    1. My school doesn’t either and I do remember when there was someone who was against MLK day which just comes to show us what type of society we are living it.

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