Jim “The Doubter” Groom’s1 comments made me want to clarify the validity of bothering to impugn Christopher Columbus’s name. The results are below. It’s interesting to see how early and, as a result, how simply Columbus is covered. It’s no wonder so many people (other than the people Jim seems to hang out with) end up with a very one dimensional view of Columbus as a pure hero2

Here are the VA SOLs for old Christopher Columbus.

First Grade

1.3 The student will discuss the lives of people associated with Presidents’ Day, Columbus Day, and the events of Independence Day (Fourth of July).

Third Grade

3.3 The student will study the exploration of the Americas by
a) describing the accomplishments3 of Christopher Columbus, Juan Ponce de León, Jacques Cartier, and Christopher Newport;

3.5 The student will develop map skills by
d) locating the regions in the Americas explored by Christopher Columbus (San Salvador in the Bahamas), Juan Ponce de León (near St. Augustine, Florida), Jacques Cartier (near Quebec, Canada), and Christopher Newport (Jamestown, Virginia);


SS.5.A.3.2 Investigate (nationality, sponsoring country, motives, dates and routes of travel, accomplishments) the European explorers. Social Studies 5 American History Exploration and Settlement of North America


§113.5. Social Studies, Grade 3.
(C) describe how individuals such as Christopher Columbus and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark have contributed to the expansion of existing communities or to the creation of new communities.

Grade 4
identify the accomplishments of significant explorers such as Cabeza de Vaca; Christopher Columbus; Francisco Coronado; and René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle and explain their impact on the settlement of Texas;

Grade 5
describe the origins and significance of national celebrations such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.

1 Note to those sobbing for me giving Senor Groom a hard time. We’re friends. He can take a joke. It’s all ok. Or maybe not; either way I’m still doing it.

2 Note this is through 12th grade and Texas has a number of people who are angry Columbus isn’t celebrated more.

3 bolding mine

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9 thoughts on “Columbus?

  1. I am no longer your friend, and impugning Christopher Columbus is heresy in my book!

    More seriously, your point is well taken, but one could extrapolate out from these
    general directives a whole bunch of ideas—much of which should reset with the teacher in an ideal world. Take Cabeza de Vaca, one of the most amazing exploration narratives that brings into question Columbus’ accomplishments, that would mean a comparative analysis of these figures. I think what we both truly agree on is that the school system has been so routinized, dumbed down, and hollowed out that the people who are trying to anything of worth are ultimately choked out, and the rest couldn’t conjure an original thought if their life depended out in. The brain drain from K-12 is no surprise, it is part of the intentional disinvestment of public education more generally, and that is the real crime and genocide. Can we be friends again now?

  2. You had me at Cabeza de Vaca.

    That’s the thing about standards, they are often pretty decent IF you extrapolate out but that happens very rarely. If you look at the questions driven by these standards you’ll see, in the end, they are not about expanding. Besides this is all elementary stuff, they’ll say that Columbus poem, say some stuff they remember about the flat earth and call it a day.

    This massacre of our education system will be reported someday, unless we lose completely. If that happens then they’ll celebrate Standardized Test Day.

    I’ll never stop loving you.

  3. We no longer celebrate Columbus Day? I guess I need to be more observant. I didn’t notice. I remember doing a diary from the viewpoint of Vasco da Gama in 8th grade. I researched Gama, and I discovered he had ordered hundreds of passengers locked into the hold of a ship, which he ordered to be set on fire with the passengers inside. I don’t think I ever looked at explorers the same way. Trying to get inside that guy’s head and figure out why he’d do something like that was hard. I do remember Mrs. Hoy liked my diary.

  4. I think people celebrate Columbus day. I see it on calendars. 🙂 Jim would be protesting in the street if it wasn’t celebrated.

    Didn’t know that about da Gama. That would have gotten my attention as a student. You must have had an interesting teacher.

  5. She was good. I remember the assignment was that we were either given or chose an explorer to do this project about, and we had to research the explorer’s life. I remember that I liked my guy’s name, but I didn’t know anything about him before I began my research project.

  6. In U.S.I (5th or 6th grade) grade we don’t look at Columbus specifically, but we do have this:

    US I.4 The student will demonstrate knowledge of European exploration in North America and West Africa by: b) describing cultural interactions between Europeans and American Indians (First Americans) that led to cooperation and conflict;

    The VDOE Curriculum Framework expands upon this with:

    Cultural interaction

    * Spanish – Conquered and enslaved American Indians (First Americans) – Brought Christianity to the New World – Brought European diseases

    * French – Established trading posts – Spread Christian religion

    * English – Established settlements and claimed ownership of land – Learned farming techniques from American Indians (First Americans) – Traded

    All of this is to say perhaps the French can get off ok here, but the English and especially the Spanish have a hard time coming out of this looking like heroes in this round of coverage.

  7. Yeah, I see what you’re saying but I disagree based on the way I see these topics covered.

    It’s one thing to say the Spanish practiced slavery, it’s another to say they threw babies into fires, worked at genocide etc. etc. Slavery is minimized in the mind of students, in part, because it was something we Americans did and therefore can’t be too bad.

    Now if you compared the genocide to Germany’s actions during WWII you’d have a very different conversation and likely a different reaction from students.

    The way I read the Spanish section is the Spanish come out ahead in the minds of most students. They conquered and brought Christianity (positives). Students aren’t going to blame them for diseases (and to some degree shouldn’t). Besides you’ve really got to be blatant in a different way to overcome all that’s come before.

    I don’t see the English getting anything negative at all unless the teacher takes it there directly.

    I don’t know. Standards certainly have limits and it’s up to the teacher but the way I see stuff covered in VA tends way towards the surface with little deep thought or nuance.

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