Monday, October 12, 2009

When the Legend Becomes Fact...

Columbus sailed the ocean
In 1492,
Because he had a notion
He'd find America for you!
That little rhyme is something I memorized when I was six or seven years old. At least it helped me remember the year of discovery, though not the date. I have to be reminded about that: at 2 a.m. on October 12, 1492, a sailor aboard the Pinta first sighted the New World. The rest of the legend, though, is rather farcical.

(YouTube video)

So the oldest existing terrestrial globe dates back to 1492, but even medieval academics realized the earth was spherical. So if Columbus wasn't trying to prove the roundness of the earth, then what was he looking for? Gold. And that's just the beginning...

Nobody taught me any little poems about the tyranny, rape and slavery Columbus brought to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. And researchers are still learning about the sexually transmitted diseases Europeans brought to the New World.

But I doubt these facts are what Congress has in mind when they consider H. RES. 815: "Expressing support for recognition of Christopher Columbus and his role in the history of the United States and recognizing the importance of students learning about Christopher Columbus."

I fully support teaching history and civics, but I think it's time we stop teaching these legends.