The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 9, 1992- Page 5
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In fourteen hundred
Columbus sailed the
by Erin Einhorn
Daily Staff Reporter
LSA senior Angie Bynum said the
lessons she learned in elementary
school about Christopher Columbus
are very far from the truth.
"I was always taught that Colum-
bus was a hero and that he met the
Indians, but they were like savages,"
It was notuntil she left high school
and came to the U-M that she learned
"When I found out, I was angry,"
she said. "It opened my eyes to ques-
tion the way I was taught, and all the
other sterotypes that I have seen. I
didn't know about other cultures and
society itself wasn't telling."
Fifth-grader Ron McGee said he
first learned about Christopher Co-
lumbus from his first-grade teacher.
"She told us that Columbus dis-
covered America," he said. "I thought
I knew everything about Columbus
But in the wake of controversy
surrounding the 500th anniversary of
Columbus' voyage, McGee - like
many students across the country -
is learning several versions of what
happened and what the event means.
"We're seeing a full spectrum of
perspectives across the board," said
Sara Wallace,associate executive di-
rector for the National Council for
ing it the
they have been for
years and years," Wallace said. "But
because of the quincentenary, for the
last two years, teachers have been
looking at the controversy and trying
to make a balanced presentation."
The National Council for Social
Studies has re-
leased an official
1492, and pro-
with basic, accu-
setting, and un-
bus') record is
certainly not un-
Dianne Davis, director of social stud-
ies for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
"But the effects of his voyage were
certainly not a deliberate act of his.
"The question is: Why is it so
relevant now? What is the legacy?
That's what we want kids to know,"
Discover: To see or learn for the
first time; to find out.
Discovery: The act of discover-
ing; anything discovered.
The students in Hayes Dabny's
fifthgrade class atNorthsideElemen-
tary school took turns reading these
definitions off the chalk board Tues-
They talked about personal dis-
coveries they had made and different
ways to discover.
"Sometimes you discover things
by accident," one student said.
The class agreed.
"What ifapersonfinds something
out by himself," Dabny asked his
class. "That would be sort of a self-
discovery," he said.
The class agreed again.
"He might think that maybe he
had discovered something that maybe
nobody had discovered before."
glorification. We're trying to get
people to temper both sides."
The Ann Arbor Public Schools
have established a policy of present-
ing as many variations as possible
about history to students, she said.
"It's a sign of the times," Davis
said. "I'd say the most profitable
thing that's come out to the historical
revisionist movement is the impor-
tance of looking at events in history
from more than one perspective.
"That's the greatest service we
can do for our kids."
Davis said when she began work-
ing in Ann Arbor in 1985, new ideas
about teaching Columbus Day were
just beginning to surface. But in an-
ticipation of this year'squincentenary,
a wide range of literature and view-
points has poured in from all sides.
"We've provided various pieces
of materials to teachers," she said,
"And I spoke to teachers about think-
ing about what they wanted to say."
However, Davis said, the district
makes no specific requirements of
teachers and leaves curriculum de-
velopment up to individual principals.
Dabny first tried to assess what
the class already knew about Colum-
"In 1492, Columbus sailed the
ocean blue," one student recited.
"First he sailed to South America."
"He discovered that the Earth is
view, was a mon-
ster akin to Hitler, 1
tation, and a deepm
level of institu-
tional racism and
appreciate the in-
Columbus - his
positive and nega-
tive aspects - in
"Columbus was not all that bad,"
said Northside fifth-grader Jon
Stroud. "He thought he discovered
(America) first ... He discovered it
for Europe, but the Native Ameri-
cans were there first and they
discovered it for them.
"He brought the whole horse
population and animal populations
to the United States and North
America, but he also brought disease
with him that wiped out the Native
want revenge," said another. "He
just took their spices and said that he
discovered their land."
"These people are mad at him
because Columbusfoundthisnew land
and that's why the Pilgrims wanted to
come here... Now instead of having a
native American land, we have the
United States and very little space for
the Indians to use."
"They're mad because he came to
North America and he goes back to
Spain and he says 'Ifound a new land,
le discovered America"
I fired my hero about five
years ago. I told him I wasn't
going to tolerate his crap any more
and that I didn't want to see any
more of his kind.
I took the
from my Matthew
how he was
Gooden, a ~--
pitcher for the New York Mets.
He was one of the most electrify-
ing athletes I had ever seen. When
he would pitch in Shea Stadium,
the crowd would be wired every
time he got two strikes on the
batter, anticipating another
Five hundred miles away in
Dearborn, I would be wired, too,
sitting on the edge of my seat and
glued to the television.
In the summer of 1987, I
watched that same television when
the sportscaster announced that
Gooden had just checked into a
substance abuse clinic. I slumped
back in my chair, stunned. I
almost felt like crying.
Then, I fired Gooden. And I
did not advertise for a replace-
"Why bother with heroes," I
wondered. "All they do is let you
Of course, this was a selfish
response. Gooden had his own
problems without worrying about
which little kids he was hurling.
And sure, it was silly of me to
idolize an athlete whom I'd never
met, but this happens all the time.
For most people, heroes are
celebrities - people they likely
will never meet. Perhaps they
want to live vicariously through
them and do the things they never
These people only see their
heroes performing in their arenas
of expertise, never realizing what
they are like outside of the
Our music stars are heroes -
until they die of a heroin over-
dose. JFK is still a legend - but
reports say he brought prostitutes
to the White House. We idolize
our champion athletes - and a
week later, they check into the
Betty Ford clinic.
And when one of these
incidents is exposed, the hero can
be easily replaced by a variety of
others. The world is full of rock
stars and major league pitchers.
I spent yesterday afternoon
asking students about whom they
regarded as heroes. Not surpris-
ingly, I received a wide variety of
responses, from celebrities like
Mother Theresa and Lee Iaccoca
to more obscure mnes like
Vaclav Havel and Ayn Rand.
Interestingly, one of the most
popular answers was "no one."
Apparently, I wasn't the only who
grew weary of being let down.
To me, this did not indicate
that heroes no longer exist, but
rather that most people are
looking in the wrong places.
The real heroes of today's
world don't perform on stage or in
front of television cameras. They
are the people who punch the
clock every morning to make sure
their families are fed at night.
They aren't shortstops or guitar-
ists; they're mothers and fathers.
I'm not saying all of these
people are worthy of admiration,
but chances are, someone in your
everyday life has influenced you
in a positive way.
Of all the people with whom I
spoke, those who answered the
fastest were the ones who knew
their heroes personally.
I don't want to take anything
away from those who look up to
some of the great leaders in
history. All of these figures have
admirable qualities which we
would all do well to emulate.
"He discovered the Indians."
"Actually," someone said, "he did
not discover America because people
were already here."
"And he didn't find out that the
His classmate Codou Morris dis-
"Columbus was not a good per-
son," she said. "We should talk about
him, but not celebrate a day for some
things he didn't
celebrate the voy-
age, but not
was good for the
world," he said.
"But as a man, he
was as good as he
was bad. He made
the Native Ameri-
EVAN PETRIE/Daily but focus celebra-
tions on "Pilgrims' day -
Thanksgiving." McGee said Colum-
bus Day should be celebrated so that
Earth was round, he only proved it,"
added someone else.
"He did NOT discover the Indi-
The actions of
Columbus, a man
for whom there are
than any other non-
religious leader in
have spurred a na-y
possibly larger than
the debate about
whether the Earth
as an American
symbol during the
when rebels at-
tempted to equate
his expolits with the
creation of a new nation. The United
States government declared Colum-
bus a national hero at the 1892
exposition in Chicago, with the ad-
vent of the Columbus Day holiday.
But suddenly he faces the loss of
his reputation as a hero.
The NationalCouncil of Churches
you can live here.' And we came over
and took the land like it was ours in
the first place."
"I think the kids have a lot of
opinions on the subject," Dabny said.
"What they're hearing is kind of dif-
ferent from what I heard when I was in
Dabny began teaching atNorthside
this year, but said he has been reading
about multicultural education for sev-
"Kids today have to be more aware
than we were challenged to be," he
said. "With our world economy, it's
important for kids to become world-
wise. They're going to have to know
how to do things that we didn't have
He said that a more complete his-
torical perspective could help reduce
the tension between races and ethnic
groups in the future.
"The fact that they're going to
know more about other cultures will
allow them to relate better to one
another," he said.
Northside first-grade teacher Jinx
Cooke said she also now includes a
non-traditional view of Columbus day
in her curriculum.
"I used to
say in class that
said. "It used to
efforts we've all
learned how in-
sensitive that is
said she shows
the path of Co-
on the world
map and asks
her students to
EVAN PETRIE/Daily describe what
he might have seen when he landed.
"I tell them 'Sometimes people
say that Columbus discoverd
America,' and ask them, 'What do
you think?' I never answer the ques-
tion," Cooke said.
"Kids are much more accountable
for thinking and problem-solving
members of Hayes
Dabny's fifth grade
class at Northside
the outline of a
ship for his own
model of the Santa
reads a Weekly
* Near left:
Jon Stroud shows
Dabnv the path
kids can eat good food.
Dabny distributed a Weekly
Reader scholastic periodical with a
focus on the 500th anniversary of
Columbus' voyage and asked his stu-
dents to interpret the photograph of
Native American protesters on the