In October 2013, my daughter came home from school excited about Christopher Columbus. He had come to visit her class! During his visit, he told the children that he had figured out the world was round and then bravely led his crew to discover America. Then they all made telescopes.The essay did well, with over 1000 clicks a minute for awhile on Columbus Day itself. CNN has republished it and promoted on their website, which is lovely to see, as I think it's a good essay.
As a father and history professor, I was caught off-guard. Columbus actually didn't figure out the world was round. He didn't really discover America, either. And telescopes weren't around until about a century after Columbus died. But what do you tell a 5-year-old who has bought into a myth? And how do you do it without constructing an anti-myth, pegging the explorer as one of the most evil people to walk the Earth? What should we tell our children about Columbus?
Tomorrow, I'm scheduled to be on NPR's Here and Now to discuss Columbus, Columbus Day, and what we should tell our kids about messy pasts. If I'm lucky, we'll be able to broaden the conversation to bigger issues about history and memory (and parenting and teaching).
Here's what I'm reading or re-reading.
- Yoni Appelbaum, now politics editor at the Atlantic, with a terrific piece from 2012 on the history of Columbus Day.
- 1491 (from 2002. You should really just read the book).
- Recent attempts to celebrate Native Americans on Columbus Day (We should celebrate the indigenous past, advocate for the future, and remember genocide).
- And a National Geographic piece on Leif Erickson vs Columbus (anti-Italian nativists tried to celebrate Erickson in the early 20th century).
Tune in tomorrow on NPR!
My writing this week:
- Autism Speaks - Is Unity Possible?
- The Liberal Arts, Carly Fiorina, and the Middle Ages
- Disability Journalism Award for a great piece on restraint.
- The Oregon Shooting and Disability
- Misused Medievalism
- Trump and the "F-word" - Rick Perlstein
- Kelly Baker on Academia as a "Cult."
- We Cannot Arm Our Way To Less Gun Violence
- Live on CNN on Gun Control - My Prefutations of John Lott (who emailed me and asked me to publish refutations of his refutations, but if you want that, go google them yourself).
Thanks for reading.