What do you tell your kids about Columbus?

    Many students and their grownups have today off in honor of Columbus Day.

    We live in a city with a Columbus Boulevard, an annual Columbus Day Parade, and a Columbus Memorial Statue. Columbus is revered by many Philadelphians. Yet, celebrating Columbus as a hero offers a skewed view of history.

    I’ve worked with undergraduate and graduate students for more than a decade now, and am shocked year after year that many of my students have never heard the “other sides” to the Columbus story.  

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    I use this simulation in my classes to encourage students (all of whom are or will be teachers) to think critically about the issue and look at the events using primary sources and multiple perspectives. The exercise is instructive for all of us.

    I think it’s important that my teacher education students revisit the Columbus story this way, but every year, we also discuss what children should be told about Columbus. My students argue that if they are confused about what to believe as adults, shouldn’t we wait until children are older to tell them “the truth?”

    When these questions arise, I remind them of the flaws in thinking we know “THE truth” about any historical event, that there are in fact, multiple truths.

    But I also find myself hoping that 10 years from now, I will not be the one breaking this news to my adult students.  Hoping that they will arrive in college or graduate school, armed with both the knowlwdge and questions that should be asked when examining our celebration of such a complex figure in our nation’s history.

    So what do you tell your children about Columbus?

    Northwest Philly Parents is a partnership between Newsworks and Germantown Avenue Parents


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