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Primerrily talks Columbus Day (and Complexity) with Our Kids

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

In 2021, Christopher who?


In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation honoring the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day -- the second Monday of October -- a national holiday. Since then, in the days leading up to this holiday, classrooms were known to teach young students about the famous Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus. The lesson went on to discuss his three ships commissioned by the Spanish Queen and King: the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María. From my childhood, I recall crafting art projects depicting these ships glue-stick'd over a sheet of ocean blue-colored construction paper.


Fast forward to today, when my kids have not been introduced to a person by the name of Christopher Columbus, for whom a federal holiday suspends their school schedule. I imagine this omission in curriculum largely has to do with the controversy tied to his expedition. Given the current woke trends pushing for a “cancellation” of this European explorer, I have to think that teachers are either woke themselves or unwilling to risk crossing the woke line. Whichever the case, have my kids experienced the consequence of woke’s dismantling classical education in Western Civilization?


At the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, historian James Brown analyzes the historical and current-day Christopher Columbus controversy: How did Americans go from naming a national holiday in his honor to denigrating him? “Countless factions were inspired by the courageous explorer. His name would grace the U.S. capital district, innumerable localities in North and South America, sailing vessels and spacecraft, [an Ivy League University,] and a media empire. The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Columbian Exposition, minted commemorative coins of both Columbus and his patroness, Queen Isabella. Hers was the first U.S. coin honoring a woman—a fact ignored by progressives.” And then today, the holiday is commonly known for the controversy and woke campaign to rename Columbus Day as “Indigienous People’s Day.”


Well, no, we say this does not mark the beginning of the end of our kids’ exposure to classical international and American history. . . because we are teaching them. We can teach them the good, the bad, and the ugly. . . in that order, and when the age is right. At my kids’ ages -- preschool and early elementary school -- I’ll be reading them, for instance, the Columbus Day (1492) Poem:


In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain; He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain

He sailed by night; he sailed by day; He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know how to find the way to go.