For years, I opened my 11th-grade U.S. history classes by asking students, “What’s the name of that guy they say discovered America?” A few students might object to the word “discover,” but they all knew the fellow I was talking about. “Christopher Columbus!” several called out in unison.
“Right. So who did he find when he came here?” I asked. Usually, a few students would say, “Indians,” but I asked them to be specific: “Which nationality? What are their names?”
In more than 30 years of teaching U.S. history and guest-teaching in others’ classes, I’ve never had a single student say, “Taínos.” How do we explain that? We all know the name of the man who came here from Europe, but none of us knows the name of the people who were here first—and there were hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of them. Why haven’t you heard of them?
This ignorance is an artifact of historical silencing—rendering invisible the lives and stories of entire peoples.
[…] In an interview with Barbara Miner, included in Rethinking Columbus, Suzan Shown Harjo of the Morning Star Institute, who is Creek and Cheyenne, said: “As Native American peoples in this red quarter of Mother Earth, we have no reason to celebrate an invasion that caused the demise of so many of our people, and is still causing destruction today.” After all, Columbus did not merely “discover,” he took over. He kidnapped Taínos, enslaved them—“Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold,” Columbus wrote—and “punished” them by ordering that their hands be cut off or that they be chased down by vicious attack dogs, if they failed to deliver the quota of gold that Columbus demanded. One eyewitness accompanying Columbus wrote that it “did them great damage, for a dog is the equal of 10 men against the Indians.”
Corporate textbooks and children’s biographies of Columbus included none of this and were filled with misinformation and distortion. But the deeper problem was the subtext of the Columbus story: it’s OK for big nations to bully small nations, for white people to dominate people of color, to celebrate the colonialists with no attention paid to the perspectives of the colonized, to view history solely from the standpoint of the winners.
In January of this year, district officials came into Tucson’s high schools, confiscated the offending books, put them in boxes, and carted them away. These books were taken while classes were in session, so that the teachers and students wouldn’t miss the point.
What’s even more terrifying is that their actions were in compliance with an Arizona state law.
HB 2281 has terminated Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program, a virtually one of a kind social studies and humanities high school program that seeks to close the “achievement gap” by encouraging Tucson students (of whom at least 60% are Latino) to look at American history critically in regards to race, gender, and ethnicity.
But Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal will have none of it, and threatened to withdraw 14 million dollars in state funding to the Tucson Unified School District if it failed to comply with the law, which criminalizes, among other things, “any courses or classes that…advocate ethnic solidarity…”
And so hundreds of students have had their curriculum literally snatched away from them at mid-year; their teachers are now required by law to assign them more “traditional” reading material that ignores the racial, gender, and class biases that have so tragically shaped our country.
Another gentle reminder that there are *ahem* various places I could be arrested for teaching this to you in school.
Actually when I asked that same question to my students they had no idea who Christopher Columbus was (which is a whole nother issue) but they damn well learned who he was by the end of the unit, who the Tainos were, and to be honest they’ve probably forgotten it all. But it was exciting to teach it back in September! I think I might always want to start with the Trial of Columbus…if u r an educator definitely check it out, there are tons of materials and they’re easy to modify/scaffold and it is so awesome to see kids ask their classmates why they thought it was okay to chop other peoples hands off. Also I am so thankful that I am able to teach this kind of curriculum and that it is supported and encouraged by my admin. The one decent thing about teaching in CPS.
when i first started teaching in 2011, every time i told someone that i taught in a CPS high school in an “inner-city” neighborhood, they would be like “duuuuudeee, so is it like The Wire?” except the last time i had seen season 4 of the wire was in 2010, and i didn’t particularly remember much about prezbo, his interactions with the students or the students’ interactions with each other. and also, i definitely resented the implication that my profession could be represented by a few fictional classrooms in a TV show (albeit, an extremely well-written TV show). because i hadn’t taught prior to watching that season, it didn’t resonate with me the way it did today when we watched a clip during professional development (not this clip, but the one where the girl slashes another girl across the face with a razor blade). and now i’ve been watching clips from this season all fucking night and i can safely say that teaching at Marshall is EXACTLY like The Wire, except much much much worse.
Everybody I know thinks this is hilarious, like we outsmarted Blockbuster by watching movies on our computers. But no one I know does the in-home service for Netflix, and the streaming option only has a fraction of the choices. Nothing new, hardly any classics beyond 1980, hardly any Best Picture winners. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest? Nope. No Country For Old Men? Nope. Search “Alfred Hitchcock,” and you only find The Lady Vanishes and Double Take. I don’t like being all, “You guys, things were better the old way,” but, you guys.
Valid. Streaming dominance means “active” movies are worse overall.
There is a gap in the market that I’m sure will eventually be filled. Wouldn’t it make sense that a start-up of cinefiles could make a business like Netflix for old, rare, and independent films, maybe specializing in different areas (ie horror, silent, etc.). Eventually someone will invest time and money to digitize older content, and purchase rights to newer content to stream it over the internet.
In the mean time, in most metropolitan areas, there are some independent movie rental places that are hanging on, because there is a demand for both the content and the associated experience of picking out a movie, talking to people in the store. I’m not romantic enough to think that will survive forever (also I am not one of those people, so I really don’t care), but I also don’t buy the argument that film buffs are dying out because Netflix.
i wonder if they mean commercial driving experience? cause when i first saw this ad i was like “fuck, i’m not even qualified to drive a toy train in circles around a mall.” i’ve seen those trains at wheaton plaza and they seem pretty chill to drive.
but i’m actually more interested in the VERY HONEST part. i wonder that’s all about.
When Emily and I went to austin we ride a kiddie train driven by this dude with dreads and a heavy Texas accent. Was always wondering what the qualifications were to do that, now I know thanks Doug!